Sunday, August 30, 2009

Goodbye, Old Boy
Dante', March 1998-August 2009
The Remains

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

Mark Strand

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We Didn't Bury A Bowl

He didn't have a toy any longer,
and he shared a bowl with the love
of his life, so I could not put that
in the ground with him. So I wrote
him a note, triple-sealed in baggies.

I thanked him for the smiles, laughs,
frustration, worry, and the share
of yuck value he gave me on any given
day, when he was young and the hunt
was the mission. I said I knew he understood
I did not see him there under the carport
in the shade. It was not a place he ever slept.

He was predictable to a fault, I thought,
but chose not to write. I told him I would
need to work hard to forget this day. The
thump beneath the wheels (I did not write
that to him--he knew the feel), the frantic
drive to the vet, my neighbor cradling him
in his arms, his mouth opening wide for air
he could not get. Oh my dear, dear Old Boy.

I have a shepherd's hook in the yard. One which
has not held a plant in some time. I went to
the store today and found a cat wind chime
and hung it from the post, which I took from
its unused and useless place and placed them
both on your grave.

I will miss you.

The scratch at the door, the fights with Molly,
your strange, and oftentimes pained yowl, your love
for me and for every human who came in this house.
And I will take care of your girl, who is missing
you this night, who searches the back door
hoping beyond hope that y0u will lift yourself

off all fours and bring claws to glass--your love call,
your letting us know every day you were still here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Excerpt from Against Elegies

No one was promised a shapely life
ending in a tutelary vision.
No one was promised: if
you're a genuinely irreplaceable
grandmother or editor
you will not need to be replaced.
When I die, the death I face
will more than likely be illogical:
Alzheimer's or a milk truck: the absurd.
The Talmud teaches we become impure
when we die, profane dirt, once the word
that spoke this life in us has been withdrawn,

the letter taken from the envelope.
If we believe the letter will be read,
some curiosity, some hope
come with knowing that we die.
But this was another century
in which we made death humanly obscene:
Soweto El Salvador Kurdistan
Armenia Shatila Baghdad Hanoi
Auschwitz Each one, unique as our lives are,
taints what's left with complicity,
makes everyone living a survivor
who will, or won't, bear witness for the dead.

I can only bear witness for my own
dead and dying, whom I've often failed:
unanswered letters, unattempted phone
calls, against these fictions. A fiction winds
her watch in sunlight, cancer ticking bone
to shards. A fiction looks
at proofs of a too-hastily finished book
that may be published before he goes blind.
The old, who tell good stories, half expect
that what's written in their chromosomes
will come true, that history won't interject
a virus or a siren or a sealed

train to where age is irrelevant.
The old rebbetzen at Ravensbruck
died in the most wrong place, at the wrong time.
What do the young know different?
No partisans are waiting in the woods
to welcome them. Siblings who stayed home
count down doom. Revolution became
a dinner party in a fast-food chain,
a vendetta for an abscessed crime,
a hard-on market for consumer goods.
A living man reads a dead woman's book.
She wrote it; then, he knows, she was turned in.

For every partisan
there are a million gratuitous
deaths from hunger, all-American
mass murders, small wars,
the old diseases and the new.
Who dies well? The priviledge
of asking doesn't have to do with age.
For most of us
no question what our deaths, our lives, mean.
At the end, Catherine will know what she knew,
and James will, and Melvin,
and I, in no one's stories, as we are.

Marilyn Hacker

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009