When a man dies, an unknown world passes away. St. Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars
The morning we didn’t know
would be our last together,
you pressed your forehead to mine,
pressed and rubbed gently, as an animal
shows affection, or as if to transfer
the stores of your brain to mine,
across the shield of bone the other car
would crush, leaving no one alive
to know so well how wind rises off mountains
to loft a small plane, how to fly low
in thick weather, following lifelines
of road. No one alive to think as you did:
eternal questioner, contrarian, no one else
to impress a whole pad of paper from top sheet
through in your elegant, unreadable script.
Somewhere behind the generous forehead:
loyalty, stubbornness, the history of flight,
lines of movie dialogue, Chopin and Mozart,
sugar-making and bluntness, impulse and dream,
intuition and blindness, bravery, recycled jokes.
You pressed your forehead to mine—
not head to head, old debater
that you were, but gently: a tête à tête
where what we were might meet.
We were dumb; a less impatient listener
would have more of you than I do.
In that wordless gesture, you tried to give me
all—did you sense?—I would have left
of you, turning with my questions to the air.
What was it Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager said,
casually flying faster than sound in “The Right Stuff?”
If you were here, not the other side of that barrier,
you’d play the whole scene in character. I remember
only the bit about “the firmness of the earth,”
because my wanting you back is so like that.