Black-flies enter my writing house.
Too numerous to count, they hurry
across and up and down the window panes
fitfully seeking escape, unaware of the spider
two panes over, watching to see how well
its webbing will work.
The black-flies flew
through the open door. Granted they didn’t
know of the spider, but fly they did, and walk
they will into the webbing. The room throbs
with inevitability. They will be etherized
like Eliot’s patient upon the table, as will we
for better or worse in the end.
Off you go on your tractor to split the wood.
Seems I’m always hailing you from a distance,
you at your work, I at mine watching you,
recording your work on a day in spring
that is already looking through summer
to the cold trap of winter beyond, knowing
the flare of color in fall a brief fire
that will not last but will end as we will––
brown and sere––pushed off our branch
by the buds of another spring.
You outlived many but then it was you
for whom death came, thirsty, a-search
and drinking you quickly lest the glass spill
and anything of you be lost.
As poet-survivor among your peers
the task of memorializing had fallen to you
again and again, in memory of Richard,
of Tom, of John Hewitt …
in Seeing Things; they rise again
under your pen to life for us
in poems filled with your humanity
still wholly intact.
There is more of grave than of gravy, I said,
turning Dickens’ line on its head,
a reference to my father three score dead
when I dreamed him alive last night,
alive but with skin peeling, as if from
a wasting disease, but beneath that disease
deep joy, what with being alive
again, even within the bounds of dream
a smile in the eye and face proclaimed
his presence so long ago known, cut
off suddenly by death in the night
in his own bed that failed to support his life.
No whining, no crying, I quick admonish.
That was then; this is now, and he lives.
Toward what end this lively visit, this gift
given without the asking? All of that remains
to be seen. Meanwhile, I write it down.
Unlike the mattress of years past, this paper
supports his life re-given, and I can read it
out loud, as I will: His name––Edmond Thomas.
To what extent do I mock Antigone
as I pass the beheaded hen on successive mornings,
her position altered by some night beast
perhaps, or just the wind
stronger at intervals
than the resistance of feather and flesh
I walk past on hardening ground
to give hay to living cows, higher
on the scale of likely return.
In the dreams she doesn’t know
the hugeness of what is about to strike her down.
Unsure myself of the timing of it
and whether or not I should tell her now
I don’t. Ever. I only hoard
the feeling of tenderness toward her to myself.
The tentative nature of our swapped roles––
I with the terrible knowledge, she not knowing
I solicitous, walking her
towards the edge, the brink of dream
where, Dig! I order myself.
Make a way for her to the other kingdom.