Letter to my Grandfather at his Funeral

In honor of a man who delivered letters all his life, I thought I’d return the favor and deliver one to him.

Dear Grandpa,
How long ago was it: a child and a lonely mother received, then embraced, by your boundless heart—that first place I called home?

Twenty years: time in conception to my present. All that I remember seems founded on you. I think back to those first memories reclaimed in pictures: red wheelbarrow in a grinning spiral, plastic bowling pins chased up and down a stairwell, park swings advancing then retreating, and, laced within it all like a tapestry of rope, your tanned leather hands guiding forward my own.

If you were a sculptor, you’d have taught the clay to form itself. You had a gift of listening to the soul. I imagine you saw the heart as a quaint, sideroad shop full of antique clocks. In that garage-sale of life, you’d rummage until you found what bell was meant to sing. What each of us loved—and what we were becoming—was never lost to you, was never lost.

It’s ironic, really—attempting to write, to speak in the span of five minutes, that timeless image of you I’ve always known. In this moment, somehow it feels less human knowing when my time must end when that luxury was never afforded to you—to any of us. If only I could fit eternity in the breadth of page, memory and imagination might have made up for lost time, but I will try.

First, a thank you—for everything: mentioned or unmentioned, remembered or forgotten. Thank you for the endless number of hockey games you attended in support of my brothers and myself. How much rubber was spent on the road for us? What nameless miles now bear your name?

I will never forget seeing your face at my performance of Macbeth. Suddenly, those words have become real for me:

“Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player/
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/
And then is heard no more.”

I didn’t know what those words meant then. I knew only a scarce feeling of what was fleeting, but here, at the curtain call of your life, I am overcome. It is strange now: the stage all reversed. We’re equal now is some cosmic sense—we both watched each other die.

Time moves forward. How long ago was it: a kid just out of high school returning to that first home? Almost two years now.

I will always be thankful for the time I got to spend with you, especially while I lived with you. I cherish those small moments. Those mornings where I couldn’t pull myself out of bed, it was you down the hallway: “Hey Tyler, you awake?” Me, though definitely not awake: “Yes.” And always your answer: “Yeah right!”

It was knife-throwing, Spikeball practice, and Sunday morning breakfast. It was all the moments you sat and listened to my poetry when all you probably wanted to do was watch bull riding or, I don’t know, go to bed. It was when you showed me your favorite poetry: Charge of the Light Brigade or Gunga Din.

“Cannon to right of them/
Cannon to left of them…

“So, I’ll meet him later on/
At the place where ‘e has gone…
You’re a better man then I am.”
You’re a better man.

At the hospital on a thin piece of paper, they gave us the image of your final heartbeat: crest and trough—then silence. It is easy to read it this way. Left to right. Life into death. What I recognize, however, looking into the eyes of all those who love you, is that your heartbeat is not lost. It lives on in our collective memory and through your progeny. We read your heartbeat out of silence: flourish of life, beauty in the darkness, generations to come.

I will miss you.

Love you,

Tyler

If your heart was a book

Wish me lost
in the ruined bindings
of your sunbathed heart.

Love would be an unwoven thread:
a trail of words
in the voiceless margins:

Lost fellow
you are more
than your beauty–
you: the unraveled
island of pages
I hope to know
and know without knowing:
changeless change–
always the same
madness, so beauty.

I stay only by your hand,
though I wish to stay:
wish to tell you now

this island is a bridge
to my own–so when I ask
what color blushes

in my heart, you can know
it is green: green
like the eyes of Odysseus,

searching for his island home.
And if our two worlds expire,
by time yellowed pages, and pages to come,

I will sail again alone
into that nightmare of history,
record in hand,and live to know

I loved you.

Forward Shadow

The dreamless monarch rears her wings:
dark-dark radiant eclipse
reveal your forward shadow.

I’ll follow without figure:
perform your heart before you
in monochrome glass

and convince you of yourself
beyond the half-light
in the lucid prism of a dream.

In the scattered darkness,
I reveal myself segmented:
the half-dark, milk-less weed

and cardiac clay reformed
to your selfless figure–
that love we share between us.

When we awake, the sun
will bear our recognition
eclipsed as two shadows

in one heart, or fall
away into division:
two wings pulled apart.

False Mirror

Image is not creation.
It is the disarmed soul:
the uncovered silk and bare
skin of desire’s seduction.
It is memory reversed–
the space transforming itself,
translating the soul’s momentum
forward into resemblance.
It is the collective mirror,
binding us in common
displacement and origin:
the deflected census
of a pupil’s ecstasy.
It is the dueling mind:
the sharpened expression
and dull deformity.
It is the bond reformed
and the breakaway.
It is love:
life out of life
and its grave confusion.
It is self transfigured–
the admittance of a place
and time without presence.
It is my own unclean lips
feigning an embrace:
of poetic distance
longing for a Eucharist.
It is you: the dream
of two suns uneclipsed
and the doubled embrace.
It is the tangible sense,
the world on a string,
and yet it remains
all I cannot make real.

Coin Toss

Take the road and empty your coins
marry the exchange between
stone and unbound silver.
If the line is placed
retrace those hidden steps
to a wounded fountain.
In the flurry of sunken pool
the faces will speak blows
the blood all determined.
It will trace itself forward
again to the unyielding
moment and you will know
the toss reeling
by the motion of spiral
your freedom on a tilt.