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From Another Shore

ISSUE:  Spring 1983
  —in memory of DV

Cousin, I remember
the first drunk:

more than either of us
might say of many to follow.

Both of us fresh
off some new amorous

sorrow: you,
knees like river

weeds, down on the bank, chanting
“I Love You,

Peggy Sue,” wretched whore
of a tune that we loved,

it’s true; I, past standing,
raising the stolen jug

and struggling up
words as if from under

the Atlantic, that one last
hit was left and did you want it.

The moon a mere scratch
on the blue-black gulf

of sky, but I could see
your eyes and the dark skin

that would turn
still darker with hootch

at the end, as you turned:
“Kill it,” you said and said, “By God

we have to find some girls!”
Rut only small fry

—giggling innocent town boys—came.
“O damn

a kid!” you cried,
giving lame chase.

Then the cosmic thick
conversation before unconsciousness

from which for years we would wake,
proud and unsick, stars

cool swimmers
over the pastures and lawns.

It was summer.
That dawn we felt we’d won one,

and at long last evening
come, we bubbled

with laughter at the tiny
radio beaming the Hour

of Revival from deepest
blackest downtown, “The Reverend Melvin,

Pastor,” shouting,
“I, too

was a drifter, drenched in liquor
till something grabbed me,

turned me around!
Turn to me, first friend,

and I’ll tell you something
grabbed me too.

(I have friends
who say it was God,

but I don’t know,
it didn’t grab you. . . .)

Time to go,
time to turn

the choir off, choiring triumph
that Pharoah lay forever

still, his eyes gummed shut with salt.
Time to cruise

the asphalt, steaming,
violent-loined, with no one to love

except each other.
You pointed a steady

finger at the dial:
“Enough of these losers.

Kill it.” The crackling
tapered off

like remotest storm.
One kills so much:

friendships, time,
the moist erotic hungers

of an August, wives, lives.
I seem to survive, and thought

I’d killed off you.
I have a couple of kids. One plays

“We Are the Champions,
My Friend.” Loud and louder,

day after day.
I love him. Friend,

gone downriver
a decade, and I

turned back to dry land,
I don’t know why: Somewhere

the woman you damn
near drowned in grief is raising

a daughter,
my cousin, once removed.

I don’t know her name,
but think

it has Victoria in it.
Or Victory.

Let’s call it Victory here.
For you. For me.


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