I am just another face, another day, saying, what.
“Dreams from the highway of night/
the insect engine arching over water/
Upon asphalt, the salt of the evening’s words/
I have never been lonelier/
Loved by absence/adoring the dead/
in the new May warmth/ all the caution signs
Along the pilgrimage of sorrows/blooming. ”
A Birthday poem for Chris (February 27th)
Germany we had planned for your birthday, or Bergen
Or, finances lacking, a dog sledding trip in Banff,
The destination not the point, just that this would be your 30th,
No, would have been had you not died six weeks after
Your 29th. All ages were contained in you. Some days
I called you “puppy,” others “Gramps,” eyes shifting between
Vivid giddiness, sweet liquidity and routine’s weary glaze.
And yet, you wanted to age so much, loved the thought of grey,
A slower pace, even infirmity through which we would lie
Together, calm. You wept at seniors holding hands.
You were like no young man I ever knew. Or will ever know again.
Now what does growing old hold? No you there
To hope for a vision of my long white hair, and music
Between us—softer, but there, still.
From the shore, a few dark boats.
The ocean with its shushshushshush to all that’s past.
Tonight I dreamed of your return.
Nothing new in this but the lessened pain.
Sometimes I ask what more can I give
You’ve been gone so long now.
And still the time of salt retreats and in its place
I wait within the long life line of mountains.
August is difficult. Slow, hot, full of subtle threads of despair. Anticipating Fall, dreading the haste & pressure too. Which is worse, the silence of now, the slew of soon. Regardless, I hold this peach in my hand.
They do not fly in that perfect vee of childhood
Anymore, but in clumps, gristly bits, one or two shifting hard
To sustain a rhythm amid electrical wires, others
Falling into a slack skipping rope over the river.
And still the crying going on.
I told you yesterday I would write a poem
That does not plummet once into nostalgia,
Just one, but it seems I cannot.
There is nothing in me that is not somehow
Old & looking back, upon a child
Who was already old & looking back too.
April 11/2013 for Chris of course
[& what’s amazing is that AFTER I wrote this poem I read these lines from Louise Cotnoir: “There, the dead travel under the birds’ breasts”]
The barge being pulled up the Fraser is heavy
With dead trees.
This what I see on your anniversary morning.
A common act, yes
But what happens next isn’t.
First on one wet length, a gull lands, then another,
White as pain or happiness or nothing,
Crows too, a few starlings, and before the tug draws
The sight past my seeing there is flight gathered there
Not death, all upon the limbs
That lie inert are birds, wings folded over loss
As if the barge being dragged up the river
Is now simply an island
And the birds are forgiving or angry or nothing
As they settle upon the stacks of trunks
And ride in beauty upon the waters.
Waking up from the city of sleep
I am always sad, irritable
As if I had lost something
In the dark alleyways of dream
And, on the edge of where it is found
Am instead given light, the grinding time,
A sense I have trespassed without gift,
That again the Euridice of your death
Has risen, then dropped back into the uncapturable
World, and divested, stupid with want,
I can only lie in bed until it leaves me,
The knowledge that in sleep’s sweeter city at least,
I might have saved you from only being night.
Walking to the river
I see a man walking
Towards me, a man
Maybe, from the construction site
And as he passes
He looks at me,
Briefly, the same way
You did – with all that inexplicable
Awkward love in
His eyes, a shy
A small gesture saying I feel so much
For a moment
My heart tears
Itself up in my chest, then he is
Gone and I keep walking
Towards the river.
You, river, solace for so much loss
Still you sink me into missing
Until it becomes a condition of water
And every time I look at you
Consolation & thievery combine
As you bring me the calm of recurrent rhythm
And in the same instant say I will never
Be released from nostalgia, from imagining
You as you were, before machines took the forest
To mud, a mill was built, run & felled, rip-rap
Slapped up along the banks, streams jammed
Into pipes – that narrative including his face –
The last rupture, the first lushness – all of it one
In this cold December view over what will not let
Me go – the tributary of both healing & sorrow.