Saturday, February 8, 2014

I will be years gathering up our words

How It Is

Shall I say how it is in your clothes?
A month after your death I wear your blue jacket.  
The dog at the center of my life recognizes  
you've come to visit, he's ecstatic.
In the left pocket, a hole.
In the right, a parking ticket
delivered up last August on Bay State Road.  
In my heart, a scatter like milkweed,
a flinging from the pods of the soul.
My skin presses your old outline.
It is hot and dry inside.

I think of the last day of your life,
old friend, how I would unwind it, paste  
it together in a different collage,
back from the death car idling in the garage,  
back up the stairs, your praying hands unlaced,  
reassembling the bits of bread and tuna fish  
into a ceremony of sandwich,
running the home movie backward to a space  
we could be easy in, a kitchen place
with vodka and ice, our words like living meat.

Dear friend, you have excited crowds
with your example. They swell
like wine bags, straining at your seams.  
I will be years gathering up our words,  
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.

Maxine Kumin, "How It Is" from Selected Poems 1960-1990.

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