Monday, May 30, 2016

ghost stories

a poem for Patrick Lane

in my mind’s eye, 

you are a hard man, rough.
or you lived a rough life –
sleeves rolled up, hands or fists
ready to plunge into mud or guts,
taking hold of the stuff of life.
i was never sure how much
you cultivated the image
or how much it was foisted upon you.

a woman and a donkey in Mexico,
a boy and a chicken with its head cut off,
a botched abortion.
you were always such a storyteller –
never sure how much to believe,
i believed it all. i believed it all
because it rang true, even if lies.
there was no denying the voice,
the insistence of brokenness,
and the beauty of the shared story.

now you find yourself surrounded
by beauty, your hands plunged into dirt,
and that makes me glad.
you’re a husband again;
your wife, too, a poet
with singular vision.
i see the two of you drinking
coffee at the breakfast table.

is redemption too strong a word?

perhaps we are not so different,
after all. it seems to me that
our ideas of honesty, faithfulness,
truth are closer than the trajectory of our lives
would admit. i suppose
that’s always true.

was there really always danger lurking
beneath the surface, anger
and bitter fruit – seeds to be spat in the eye
and carve the past into sensible shapes?
those flares casting light upon hurts
and failures and the bright regrets
of acts committed and not?

there are always ghosts.

there’s the image of you
and the image of you.
not sure why i’m surprised
by the elegance of the language;
the hard-won understanding
of cadence, of the lyric;
unflinching view of the world
and your place in it.

you taught me the poet’s task
is to face himself and see himself clearly,
without sentiment.

can i just say?
i wish i had known what a privilege
it was to sit at the table with you,
i wish we could have had a drink
together, or that i would have even suggested it.