Mourning the Passing of a Poet
You distilled life to a poem
Knew what to hold
What to let go.
Like a poet only you knew
Each word you left out.
Absence carves niches in my heart
For the absent.
Memories cast light
On what I cannot see.
I mark your passing as I write.
I read back lyrics
Milled from memories
By my split heart.
I grieve with and without words.
Remember, echo is to laughter
as bronze is to sculptor,
reflection can only recall a face.
Remember the echo grows mute,
all traces erased in time.
Unlike sun full gold upon your face
memory of sun leaves you cold.
I remember: A memory drawn
from grey matter
like ink up a quill, wicking
up neurons, seeping down limbs,
leaping pen’s synapse with paper,
becoming this poem.
So much in time
is remembered far too little
and too late in time.
These days are not grey
as I will remember.
Days of low fresco skies
life, still life.
These nights not empty
as I will remember
of silver moons
So much depends on forgetting.
But one promise
I will remember
each jewel of light
grinds down to cool darkness.
Ghazal: A Life
Name one life not filled with light.
Even a cold heart melts in light.
Fog no longer blankets the canyon.
Hear the warbling wren in flight.
Recall the lessons November taught.
After summer fades, fill its void with light.
Hear the day’s internal rhyme.
A soft chorus calls twilight.
This life is not the final draft.
No life is cursed with delight.
Restore stars and the sun to your heart.
My friend, let there live lyric and light.
The Old Man
The old man paused on the bridge
a favorite stop
upstream of the lazy oxbow
where a boy once watched
the milky gold
of evening sunlight
spill through the alders
into empty space
over still water
its silent weight
filled the air
patrolling the cattails
as if they knew
the lateness of the hour.
In the end we left things undone.
The piano player drove slowly home.
We did not sing the final refrain.
We did not read one last poem
to the ring of guitar strings.
So many threads
bound one heart to many.
In the end we were practical.
How can you bury a life
and be home before suppertime?
Photo Lissa Arroyo
Final line borrowed from the novel “The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea
A poem begun years ago, edited recently, I set it free today.
Eternity smothers this one day.
This day devours every hour.
I taste each minute along my way;
still, eternity smothers this one day.
Of the beauties that bloom today,
I savor the lowest flower.
Though eternity smothers this one day,
today I devour, every hour.
The editors at The Cortland Review saw something in my poem, “I Could Say” and they published it in November 2015.
[Poem text is in the photo]
Today, I think the poem is strange, I do not like it, and I don’t think it’s very good poetry. Reading this poem conjures memories and emotions associated with my writing of the poem. Unpleasant, disturbing emotions.
I was very ill, living with a massive, destructive brain tumor, only weeks before diagnosis and surgery.
My notes tell me I had become obsessed with Sappho, and I tried to adapt Sapphic stanza and meter here. I even obsessed using long vowels at the stresses and short vowels at unstressed syllables. I don’t know why I did that. I mean, I worked the poem instead of eating, talking, bathing, sleeping. I was possessed by frightening drive and detachment. Writing was not comforting; writing this poem made me feel desperate and ill.
This describes a fairly benign episode of my otherwise terrifying insanity in summer 2015, when my brain tumor had begun noticeably crushing my neurons and blood vessels.
The parlor of my cerebrum where Sappho would frolic is today an untidy mudroom. Cleared of the big-ass mass, there’s neuro-crap strewn about, surgical and radiation damage, and a wee tumor has regrown. Could it be that Sappho’s cousin Dementia has moved in? That’s kind of funny, no? I’m laughing at it and you can, too.