We die with empty hands
That was your final lesson.

You might have taught:
We live with empty hands.
But that would have been too abstract
A gesture. Instead,

You wished me every bright object, everything
Sweet, everything ripe, but left nothing
Having lost everything
You accumulated over 80-odd years.

You should have told me:
We expand, contract, and in the end
Have nothing to show for our pain
But our pain.

Now, a year after your death,
I am no closer to understanding how things are lost
Or why it is necessary
We must lose them.

--

--

My neighbor, the poet, Richard Howard
Lived a floor or so above me and so
I often saw him come and go.
An ordinary looking man, except for his dress —
Black on black or black on black.
We nodded, smiled, looked away, whenever we passed.
Good neighbors keeping each other’s secrets.

Years later I regret never having asked him to inscribe
My copy of his translation of “Les Fleurs du Mal”
Poems clear and satisfying and transient as consommé.
A broth Baudelaire would have judged correct.
We knew each other only in passing, as shadows do.
Proximity means nothing
Although we like to believe it does.

--

--

The body is imperfect.
Every day it finds new ways
To show us
So we’ll never forget.

The mind is imperfect.
Every day it conducts new experiments
To prove this fact
So we’ll never forget.

The soul no one has ever seen.

--

--

Do not envy me or covet it.
There is nothing erotic in my unhappiness.
No riderless white horse galloping through the woods.
No clock shattered into a hundred pieces.

So why do you insist on coming?
Is it words, more words to misinterpret?

Are you looking for a heart that fits in your hands?
Or do you simply desire a wooden body
To knock knock knock against yours.

We don’t sing out our pain like birds their songs.
This pain is my pain not your pain.
This dark is my dark, mine.
And that howling that you found so touching last night.
Won’t be silenced by a kiss however expert or sincere.

--

--

In memory of B.H.

What long bones he had and in the end
He was all bone.
Behind closed lids small hard bones.
Perhaps if he could not see death
It could not see him.

Death was in the room
But Burke would not be hurried.
He waited as bones grew out of his sleeves and
Up through the neck of his sweater.
Out the bottom of his trousers stretched cool slender bones.

“Is this it?” he whispered, and
Having nothing more to add
That’s when he reached
Out five long boney fingers
To take the hand of the original Mr. Bones.

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