The flies and itching heat are gone at last.
Lovely autumn, just a walk from my door
golden and energetic, I adore
you here with me steadfast as the promise
of middle age. Birds rustle in the leaves.
Or are they footsteps coming from behind?
No, it’s only a squirrel I turn to find
close to the bench as unafraid of me
by the East River in East River Park
which was built from the rubble of London
bombed, brought back, ballast in the emptied hulls
of battleships returning to New York
in World War II. Who really knows what was?
Brown and yellow, red they fall, spring’s green buds.
You weren’t the sort of friend to come and go.
Then one day the spit dribbled down your chin
and your chapped lips that never stopped talking
of Raphael and Michelangelo
grew silent. I knew that you had suffered
more than I could know though I know one day
perhaps I’ll know. Right now I don’t. I’d say
Do you want us to say The Lord’s Prayer
together? It seemed to give you comfort.
Oh the nonsense of this world! Who can’t see
that we all come to this, both enemy
and friend? It’s so absurd not to love
love till the end. In my pen when the ink
runs out, are my thoughts somehow diminished?
We met by chance in a shadowy place
not too far from the sea with enough light
that we could look each other in the eye
while another bent over your phallus
whom you left then abandoned in the dark
like peeling off a layer of your lust
to come to me, the kernel of yourself
directly, not stopping. I was the mark
the spot, all calm, the center of your storm
invulnerable place found in a dream
where you could unclothe and embrace. You seemed
like a friend I was seeing again or
a familiar stranger who somehow knows
the silent tender acquaintance of souls.
When I put headphones on it’s like I’m deaf.
The world goes by silently on its own
like schools of fish in an aquarium
or New Yorkers who appear to my left
my right again almost like trash or leaves
scattered by a thoughtless wind. I am not
alone but it feels that way without sound
until my CD spins Carlos Vives
singing, clapped to my head, his song the world
all that there is: Colombian rhythms
that move my hips and rump along with them
till in my ears and all around me whirls
even the stranger who sits down to rest
drawn from the soundless crowd to this park bench.
To know the truth we need to talk and read.
Two at least must do it, talker talker
writer reader revealing things that we
already know so absolutely sure
of our own selves because somebody else
was there to tell us. Ramón Jiménez
I know I lived because you did. You help
me see all that I am, the new sunset
sunrise, butterfly and happy sparrow
whose God’s the blue sky, the unparalleled
burro whose life’s like mine, joy and sorrow
light and shadow reflected in the well.
You can talk to friends even when they’re dead.
Their voices appear like words from a pen.