As you enter the woods, there––
There I want my memorial service.
As you enter the woods, go up
the rise. Then stand there.
There is where I’ll be
waiting for you to enter the woods
to be lost, then found
by the hunter/gatherer of souls
who will carry us
through the woods together
then on into the fields of heaven.
What then I saw is more than tongue can say.
Our human speech is dark before the vision.
The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
As words failed Dante to describe Paradise
words fail me as I look to the woods
except for the barest verbal skeleton––
trees, brush, sunlight, shadow.
How common. How plain. How failed
a poet, who can only say thank you
for this holy day in mid-September
rife with aster and goldenrod
before the killing frost.
On this day of destruction, the Word comes down
as bodies came down through the sacred air
as the towers themselves came down in fire and dust
choking those running away in donated sneakers
those running barefoot to Brooklyn, to Bedford Stuy
running, running away to the future, to this anniversary
when we remember the runners, the jumpers
the hostages on the planes; the lovers of fire
who commandeered those planes, those misguided
ones who worshiped death. But a new altar arises
today, when the Word comes down as life, new life
these 17 years gone; new life in the womb
of the present moment. New life that is breath
for those in New York and beyond.
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.