I CAN STILL SEE YOU SHINING
I can still see you shining, and when was it ever not so,
like last night’s stars, sacred syllables
lingering in your voice like broken mirrors of ice
and you so badly wanting to fly above it all,
to burn like a draconian firefly that healed its heart
with a blow torch that welded you back together again
with scars of gold, to prove how intensely pure you were.
And you were o yes you were so serious,
amazingly beautiful, no one laughed,
when they saw the extremes of scorching honesty
with yourself and others you were willing to go to
to be worthy of the excruciations of your art,
and deeper than that, something you knew
was there in the dark by the weight of its eyes upon you
like a stranger with a spirit of bells that meant you no harm.
Of you, I wrote, my muse is lovelier than any running doe
because it was true and there was no other way of putting it
that didn’t blunt the shining, that didn’t cheat the rose,
that you inevitably didn’t when you were the new moon
and I was wholly in love with you like a total eclipse.
Yes, I remember how there was always more dark bliss
in the gifts of pain I received from you than I,
and you know how hard I tried to give back,
ever returned to you like a sacred grove of nightbirds.
You showed me the diamonds in the abyss of my inadequacies.
You were the peer of the mystery of yourself,
a black savage, one third deadly nightshade,
two thirds nocturnal orchid and there was nothing
strategic about your magic compared to mine.
That made you a greater sorceress than I was ever a wizard.
For me the birds sang, but you could hear the sky weeping
for things I’m still trying to understand about compassion.
When I think of the passage of beauty, you’re always
one of the last wildflowers of the fall, sometimes
the starclusters of the New England asters, others,
the last pilot light to go out on the blueweed
or one of those rare times, as I sense this is now,
I’m attending a seance of waterlilies that are trying
to call you back to life like an echo in a housewell
at four in the first October morning we spent on the farm
and were startled awake by the ghost of a white horse
drumming on the well cap in the moonlight
glowing in the frost on the ground, as if we were
both enlightened like two eyes at the same window,
burning in awe of the vision we shared together,
knowing the ensuing silence was more than enough
to attest to the truth of it like a secret that wasn’t meant for words.
Just as this isn’t, after so many lightyears
of remembering you like one of the great joys of life
that cast the longest shadows of the most poignant sorrow
to haunt me for the rest of my life like a wound
even the scar tissue of the moon can’t keep me
from flowing out of like the source of the Nile before Egypt.
God, how I wish every time I reached out for you
the stars didn’t burn my hands like snowflakes and doves.
There must be some other way to kiss the spirit
of evanescent things without putting your lips
to a sacred fire in an ice-age as if you were kissing
the head of an oracular snake like the eyelid
of a lover you were trying to wake from a dream
that lasts forever like a garden you’ve been shut out of
because you’re still alive, and foolish enough to love
what can’t be helped or forgotten because it’s gone.
After the storm surge, in the gleaming facets of sunshine,
death dries its outspread wings like a turkey vulture
at the top of the totem of a pine that’s been broken by lightning
and you lose your faith in the thunderbirds of aquiline evergreens.
At least, I did for awhile, looking up at the stars alone
at twenty below, impossibly trying not to accuse the gods
of anything they didn’t mean, as I grew
colder than liquid nitrogen on the inside, and my tears
shattered like crystal stalactites in an ice storm,
or sublimated into wraiths of dry ice I exorcised
too dead inside to be haunted by your memory just yet,
than any void I’ve ever tried to fly through like space
as it was turning into glass. This, too, will pass is not always true.
Eventually the wind stopped snarling like a barnyard dog
as I began letting go of you, and the pain thawed,
and the hawks were unlocked from their aviaries of ice
in one long shriek of liberation that tore my heart like a talon
because my grief was the last of you I had to hang on to
and I couldn’t use the permafrost as an excuse
not to properly bury my dead where they’d asked me to,
as I did you, facing east toward the lustreless black pearl
of the new moonrise of my heart on the threshold
of a black hole as if I had nothing left to lose but loss itself.
And who could have imagined that time would cling to me
as it has, a habit that distinguished it from eternity
like fresh water from the salt? Or I could be so exalted
to that palace of stars your spirit took up residence in
like a squall of fireflies the wind played with like chimney sparks
from the dead furnace of this house of life we once lived in together?
The morning glory’s overgrown the gate. The palings
of the fence I built are down like nights and days
crossed off in a calendar. The window we looked through
is smashed. The housewell lost in the rising tides
of the wild grasses learning to write on the wind.
And that last painting of yours you gave me,
all those truncated trees, lepers and amputees
grotesquely gathered on an island in a bay
you lavished in soft placental violets and greens,
Persian silks, and auroral saris for mutilated mannequins,
I left on the wall of your studio like some kind of seal
on the place breaking up like Pangea into
continents of plaster. I pried it loose from the ice
of a snowbank slumped in the corner opposite
that small open window you stared out at the world through
like a portrait in a picture-frame I’m still trying to get right,
and I hung it back up counter-intuitively as I imagined
you would have done, something incomprehensively beautiful
and strangely evocative of a gesture suggestively perfected
like a long misunderstood labour of love, masterfully abandoned.