Sex, death, immortality by breath where bone was, the intemperate climate.
Sex, death. The little deaths, the grand seizures, the fucking, the befucked.
Tell me, did you know, garden master, how Henry and Mr. Bones would end?
Would it have been that bridge that fell from its moorage, plummeted to dust
without Mr. Berryman but kept him calm, ah Kate would, should life grow
a habit like a fleshly weed in the third row from the left, the one Lowell had
occupied, next to Jarrell. Steve Orlen, Randall’s heir apparent, is gone now.
The bone eater, the flesh crusher, the metastasizer, a new word become old,
that’s how we go when the day opens its arm and the reaper swings a scythe
freshly sharpened. Roethke’s protégé, David, is a handsome, humble master
of immersion, see him leave behind him a track of books he did not publish,
but left to his beloved Robin, will see the light over the prairie, golden immersion
that claims us all. He keeps on, David does. He was my teacher. Grateful lover
of the wild, friend of the kind man freed from Boeing to be in Montana master
of a voice that spoke of a living place where he stayed young as long as he lived.
And here, the Midwest, the river crosser, heir of time clocks, father of a voice,
whose great failure was to die before he could see the son blossom into his own.
I do not know if sons die. Only that fathers reach the underside of earth first,
sons impatient to live and, like we learn to say in poetry school, do your work,
get it done, make it the shaped thing that contains a voice like nothing else, live
through that tonal mortality, so much like a man, or a woman: like her Brazil,
Elizabeth’s. Or her inland California, Sandra’s. Or her New England, Maxine’s.
Praise them and all the brothers and sisters of the art, from some small voice
resembling the helpless beauty whose words saved herself until she was doomed
and delivered into the fire, furnace life impossible to conceive much less believe.
Anne’s. Sylvia’s the oven. Hughes and his tall sister the bereaved without end
or reprieve, their backland roots tangled in wind’s swirl, a crow and its fish,
there is always someone falling, the art failing, the wilderness growing back
to its root world, where the child finds the body on the brink of the human.
Words have body, a body I wear, words whose desire is to spurn any end.
(for David Wagoner, who persists still in that splendid folly Blake named)
(18 November 2010)