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Laughter and Stars


ISSUE:  Autumn 1995

I didn’t make present
those days he didn’t complain
but I knew he was sick, felt
sick, and a look would pass between us,
a doomed look that nonetheless

carried streamers of light like a comet
scratching light across the tablet of the night sky.
We looked into each other
and like the comfort a small branch is to a bird
on a long migration, we took comfort in
the two-way knowing of that look.

I didn’t make present enough
his beautiful will as he went to his room
with the fireplace and heaped the fire up
to match the inner burning of his body’s candle,
the cells igniting so fast by then
it kept him awake, pacing him wall to wall
in the cage of his body’s lustre like a panther
of the will, supple and searching its parameters.
He fed the fire; he wrote
                                             poems.

No, I couldn’t make present
the tender way he took my body in the night
into his arms, holding his one radiance to me
like a wet match upon which one
dry spot remained and he turned just so and struck himself
against me and there was a blazing up, the way the night
ignites with more than lips and parted legs
when two souls
in their firefly selves
come together asking
to be buried in the no-song-left-but-this
                                                                 dark.

Had I been able to give these things
I might have described his innocent laughter
with a friend and me the night before his death, laughter
at the clumsiness of the body, his body,
with the oxygen tank attached, making sure the tube
was in his mouth. His wanting to go out onto
the deck of the house to see the stars again.
The wheelchair catching
on the rug, the oxygen tank
trying to jolt loose, but somehow everything jangling along
out the sliding glass doors, and the sky huge
with a madman’s moon, huge as a man’s heart on its last
breath-beat so we had to shield ourselves
and turn away to find the
                                        stars.

Such a plaintive, farewell hissing
they made, like diamonds imbedded
in the blue-black breast of forever. But then
it was the night before my love’s last morning,
and we were together, one body to another, laughter
and stars, laughter and stars.

Then he got up, stood up with everything still attached and
  we
helped him hack open a bright crevasse in the night, to
  hurl
his heart-beat like the red living fist it was
one more time
out across the sleeping thresholds
of the living.

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