She did her best to stay
alive. I did
My best to help her live. She did her best
To stay alive. I did my best but hid
From truth, a truth that loomed with its great test
That I put off as best I could. I did
My best, of course, and it was pretty good,
To stay the course and stop what killed her mid-
Life, but, oh well, it didn’t work. I would
Give anything to know if there’s some way
To balance life with knowing what life is.
Dogs seem to have no problem. They don’t say
“Arf. I refuse to give to death what’s his.”
But screw it: I’m no dog, mystic or saint.
Let it be said that I showed no restraint.
What to do with the king
bed, that lighter,
Shray’s brass sculpture and the bright green shirt,
Each slowly fading through each day and night, or
Not, though all of them will turn to dirt
Some day, I guess. And what to do with rings,
Books, sketches, notes, the ukulele, freedom,
Regret, boots, videos in which she sings?
How do you live, and live in a museum?
“Wait. Wait. Remember when
I said to wait
A while after I die and then go out
And live? I know I had big problems saying
How I felt, but I meant that. Don’t doubt
Me or yourself this time. Weren’t you paying
Attention? I know that you still like…you know…”
That laugh. “Keep some. Then trust the rest to luck.”
To make the invisible
appear, I labor.
Under the bright star where it’s possible
To meet the dead in words that transform paper,
I summon a sweet ghost to drink her fill.
To balance tiny bits of time and matter
Against the infinite abyss in which
Even molecular vibrations scatter,
I wield a pencil that makes zero rich:
She loved life and brought more into the light;
She knew love and was known beyond your never;
She wept and fought with demons late at night,
Yet when she danced her life became life’s lever.
So, Darkness, bring it on. Do what you do.
You cannot win. For now she’s your wife too.
To life. To the lovemaking
and the wine.
To our sweet sons, the mountains where we walked.
To every single flaw, both yours and mine.
To every single time we ever talked.
To the way you shaved your lovely legs,
So flexible, one foot up in the sink.
To how you only ate the whites of eggs.
To your anxiety about each drink.
To all of it. To everything, the kisses,
The shoveling, the jokes you couldn’t tell,
The fights, the making up, the hits and misses,
The blessed days when everything went well.
To every minute, hour, day, week, month, year.
I cannot say it all, but it is here.
You have to act as if it
all is meaningful,
Something those who love you say is true,
Until meaning returns, coming through
In its sweet time, responding to the pull
Of something hard to name, like gravity
Reasserting itself on a ball,
Or what a lost child feels hearing the call
Of someone who loves her from far away.
Here, through an autumn afternoon there walk
The living, with their love. It all surprises.
The ashes settle, then there’s drinks and talk,
And like a curious fish the spirit rises.
Someone cracks a joke. The cat’s asleep.
Food’s good. It all makes sense. You start to weep.
Once, when boarding an
airplane, walking slowly
Down the aisle and enough behind her so that
Other passengers didn’t think we were to-
Gether, chance tossed a truth that had been hiding
Right in front of my eyes, a truth of beauty,
Something more of the depths. I’ll never lose it:
She was wearing a sweater, jeans, no makeup—
Rarely did—and of course the men were looking,
If discreetly, above their books and tablets,
Curious. Nothing new there. It was the women
Doing something I’d never seen: veiled daggers,
Rarely shown to a man, of envy burning
Like a flare in the night of eros. I could
Almost read their resentful minds: “You bitch-whore...”
She, as always, was unaware of strewing
Such confusion. So when we took our cheap seats
She said “Why are you laughing?” And I kissed her.
How does he do it? Ounce by
ounce, his home
Is melting, yet he sits upon the ice,
A naked, perfect king holding the throne
Of days, laughing and singing “Paradise!
I have my song, I’ve paid the purchase price,
And now I’m bound for warmer oceans, where
I know I will abandon every care
To water, melting back into the sea…
As if it matters…” And now he is sad.
He remembers how she could not be
Herself, how arabesques could drive her mad,
Her fights with sister, brother, mom and dad.
Her roast chicken. The birthmark and its shame.
Weeping now, he starts to carve her name.
100 years before, it would
Mere fiction, and a hundred before that
Unthinkable—my people to hers sin
Incarnate, hers to mine unclean. But at
This end of time it came to be, across
Eons of hatred and misunderstanding,
Centuries of violence and of loss,
Silence, cunning, exile, famine, branding,
That back on planet earth we two could see
What clearly was invisible above.
Give me my sin again. It set me free.
Love conquers all. Let us, too, yield to love.
If life’s a riddle, we made a good guess,
For when I asked, yes, she said, yes I will, yes. Yes.
When time is crushed. When
everything is dark.
When emptiness is all I am caressing.
When nothing seems to live or leave a mark:
When loneliness transcends
the arc of words.
When every memory begins undressing.
When reason scatters like a flock of birds:
When love has shattered
like a hammered crystal.
When fire weeps and rocks begin confessing.
When every dream looks like a loaded pistol:
Strange how some words
carry what they weigh.
Speak them. They do what they say. It is a blessing.
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