Friday, May 18, 2012

What a rich place it became, within our vocabulary

When a Friend
Stephen Dobyns

When a friend dies, part
of oneself splits off
and spins into the outer dark.
No use calling it back.
No use saying I miss you.

Part of one's body has been riven.
One recollects gestures,
mostly trivial. The way
he pinched a cigarette,
the way he crouched on a chair.
Now he is less than a living flea.

Where has he gone, this person
whom I loved? He is vapor now;
he is nothing. I remember
talking to him about the world.

What a rich place it became
within our vocabulary. I did not
love it half so much until
he spoke of it, until it was sifted
through the adjectives of our discussion.

And now my friend is dead.
His warm hand has been reversed.
His movements across a room
have been erased. How I wish
he was somewhere specific. He
is nowhere. He is absence.

When he spoke of things
he loved - books, music, pictures,
the articulation of ideas -
his body shook as if a wire
within him suddenly surged.
In passion he filled the room.

Where has he gone, this friend
whom I loved? The way he shaved,
the way he cut his hair, even
the way he squinted when he talked,
when he embraced an idea, held it -
all vanished. The books he loved
I see them on my shelves. The words
he spoke still group around me. But this is
chaff. This is the container
now that heart has been scraped out.

He is defunct now. His body is less
than cinders; less than a sentence
after being whispered. He is the zero
from which a man has vanished. He
was the smartest, most vibrant,
like a match suddenly struck, flaring;
now he is sweepings on a roadway.

Where is he gone? He is nowhere.
My friends, I knew a wonderful man,
these words approximate him,
as chips of stone approximate
a tower, as wind approximates a song.

1 comment:

Rukhiya said...

This poem reminds me of a dear friend with whom I've shared a great deal of thoughts that usually go around my head, wear out and fall like flowers. :)

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