in memoriam Cecil Young
I am addicted to words, constantly ferret them away
in anticipation. You cannot accuse me of not being prepared.
I am ready for anything. I can create an image faster than
just about anyone. And so, the crows blurring the tree line;
the sky’s light dimming and shifting; the Pacific cold and
impatient as ever: this is just the way I feel. Nothing more.
I could gussy up those crows, transform them
into something more formal, more Latinate, could use
the exact genus Corvus, but I won’t. Not today.
Like any addict, I, too, have limits. And I have written
too many elegies already. The Living have become
jealous of the amount I have written for the Dead.
So, leave the crows perched along the tree line
watching over us. Leave them be. The setting sun?
Leave it be. For God’s sake, what could be easier
in a poem about death than a setting sun? Leave it be.
Words cannot always help you, the old poet had taught
me, cannot always be there for you no matter how you
store them away with sharpened forethought.
Not the courier in his leather sandals, his legs dark and dirty
from the long race across the desert. Not the carrier
pigeon arriving with the news of another dead Caesar
and the request you present yourself. Nothing like that.
The telephone rings. Early one morning, the telephone rings
and the voice is your mother’s voice. No fanfare. Your
father’s brother is dead. He died that morning. And your tongue
went silent. Like any other minor poet, you could not find
the best words, the appropriate words. Leave it be now.
You let your mother talk and talk to fill the silence. Leave it be.
All of your practiced precision, all of the words saved up
for a poem, can do nothing to remedy that now.