I CAN REMEMBER YOU SCREAMING
I can remember you screaming
like a shattered crackhouse window
something obscene to the last john on death row
you railed like a comet in passing.
Your mind was a mirror
that had suffered one too many exorcisms
not to weep on the dark side
like an exhausted eclipse
when you cracked like a wishbone for the boys
and I could never imagine
what you said to yourself
when you picked yourself up after them like toys
they had forgotten they had wished for.
When you pulled the shower curtain closed
like a bruise on a nun
were you in a cloister or a confessional
or are there other vows
that can only be broken by a professional?
You were all gates to everyone
but no matter how many they passed through
they never made it as far as the garden.
But I can remember one night with you
before we both grew up through the concrete
when the angel with the flaming sword
blew herself out like a candle
and there was more to the beginning
than just a word.
Everything sprang up like mushrooms
and in every one
I could taste you like the moon.
And San Francisco in the sixties
showed us both what the world could have been like
if it had been created by a woman
but it was you alone
in the silence of our mystic complicity
that revealed what could be revealed
of your plans for paradise.
Are you in it now?
Are you dabbling your toes
in the salmon-enchanted rivers of the dawn
or leaping over the obvious rainbows upstream
to heal your urgency in the sacred pools of Goldstream
as if the sea depended on it?
The last time I saw you
the drugs had made you so thin
you looked like a ladder going down into a deep hole
and there were no demons or angels on it rungs
and the stars in your eyes had turned their dancefloors
into the heads of tiny pins and celestial syringes
at the other end of the telescope that makes things small.
And then the ferry pulled away from the wharf like a planet
and left me standing dwarfed in its wake
and I remembered you, so unafraid and golden
insisting I push you higher and higher
with every return of the swing
as if you couldn’t do anything
without coming full circle,
and then you jumped like a stone from a sling
or a comet from its dark halo
and I saw the moon fall out of your ring
like an opal, like an eye
and by October when you left for Mexico,
the little we had of a belated childhood was over.
I wanted to call and tell you
I still loved you like that summer
you turned, and laughed, and raised your shirt
and showed me your breasts at the end of the walkway
like something of you
you wanted me to remember.
And I do. God knows I do, by the way I hurt
like a road you didn’t take
or the face you kept hidden for my sake
that still keeps on using me like tears
when you asked me in jest
but listened for the answer like a bell
if after all these years
I would still die for you
and for a few hours one afternoon
you were Josie again, happy and vain and glorious,
whenever I answered yes
and there was no chain in hell
that could bind you like a swing or a well
to the pendulous clockwork deathcart axles and oxen of anything
and no pain in the silence that followed the news of your death
when I said it again
and true as a comet to its calling
or the map of a star to its falling through fire,
you streamed out forever like your hair in an exaltation of glee
lacing summer stars through the darkest places in me
screaming, higher, Patrick, higher,
push me higher than I’ve ever been
as if I could pick up where you had left off
like a kite on the wing
a girl on a swing
and the world was not dirty and mean.