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He was

He was incandescently relentless—
fortuitously driven, angry, and productive
Our pleasant, dull suburban lawns bored him
His clumsiness spurred him through us
to haughtier, messier, wilder things
He was delighted, for instance,
by the bright purple weeds as
they listlessly swayed near the highway
Delighted, like a spider or a bee

Flowers and complicated work—
that’s finally all that he craved
Oh don’t get me wrong,
he tried other things, but that
was what he wanted
We don’t really plan for the things that truly matter
to us, any more than we plan
the rudimentary opacity of our fortunes or,
for that matter, his ravenous, prickly intelligence

Too many secrets made her moody
Sometime before the fight went out of her
Before she gave in to back pain and illness
Before she stopped working and became
a self-pitying, complaining cripple
Before she gave up on love and work
they would listen to the searing sting
of great string music and he’d think if she
doesn’t like these then she doesn’t like me

Matt went to Brighton beach everyday for a month
because that’s what he could afford to do
He’d lie there in the sand and heat
and come home exhausted and red-skinned
still unemployed and sunburned
his intellect ravenous and contrarian
When I can no longer share your illusions
we’ll have nowhere to go
and nothing more to say

A silly lady at a party
told me my father’s death
had had a profound effect on her
because before his illness she didn’t realize
that death could happen to such a vibrant,
strong, intelligent young man like him
Perhaps he’s now just a voice in the wind
was her verdict, spoken softly and in a
quiet voice, dripping with profundity

And perhaps you don’t have a brain in your head
but I didn’t actually say that
I said, “A man so young and strong can die
and leave us all”
I cried relentlessly for days
I’d been personally betrayed
as though another person’s life
is just a bit of fiction in our own—
a personality odd, aloof, and prickly

There was Dad with his binoculars
around his neck as he walks the wilds
of suburban Riverdale (in the Bronx)
a watcher of birds, butterflies, and flowers
Someone who knows him drives by
and offers him a lift
“I’m walking,” he says
“No thank you,” he says
“I don’t need a lift”

They knew, that older generation,
they knew:
All triumphs are followed by defeat by and by
times of plenty are followed by want,
times of calm are followed by upheavals,
that their fondest illusions could be trampled
They knew all about the wound
that wouldn’t heal,
and made from this their songs

Too many secrets made him moody
He creates collages of consolations,
false impressions, comfortable illusions
“Must they tell everything?” Gene scolded
Only a whore will tell you she loves you
when she doesn’t
If he stops now he’s lost
in the stench of this summer,
in the red of her bloodshot eyes

 

 

 

 

-July 19, 2014-