"As their time together drew to a close,
she [his Russian-language tutor at Oxford,
the sister of Boris Pasternak] suggested
they observe a Russian custom in which
those who must part sit without speaking
for a while. Then the one who is leaving
rises, walks in silence to the door, crosses
the threshold, and is gone."–G. & A. G.
After it was over he sat with the poet’s sister
who introduced him to the custom of sitting
wordlessly until the one who was leaving
arose and left the room forever.
May God tell him welcome among the scribes,
among whom he shall be treasured always.
May God give me, a poet but far from the one
whose sister bid him goodbye–give me courage
in these days of loss not only among men
but slicing through the spines of nations
whose balance goes askew and legs fold
under the body politic and the crashing begins.
May God tell the scribe to say hello to brother
Boris Pasternak and sit with him as long
as the two of you wish, discussing his gentle sister,
your two generations, and sharing your books,
those no one writes here who did not write books
down there, on the earth partitioned by oceans
and assailed not by winds only but by blackguards
and thieves whose fortune mounts in this drear year.
I who have had so many teachers–you are second
to die, Roethke before you, only Wagoner, Roethke’s
student, and McCord, my brother as well as teacher–
remain to help me say farewell to the scholar.
May your father’s Germany, your mother’s
Czechoslovakia–the one before the wall fell–
and the steppes of Russia, their lovely people
who are as common as you, may you all thrive
together in Paradise where now you may apply
formally for the vaunted position you always had
on earth, in which you took no pride because
you were never ordained God’s amanuensis
and wanted only to be of use.
May wonder and love remain your pole stars.
May I never forget you and you remember me
once we meet with our burdens no longer a weight.
R.I.P., Henry Grosshans, 1921-2010
(3 January 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander