Penelope in Moonlight

yes because I never did a thing like that as to want you in the way the world finds me broken since the beach all moonlight and hands or your lips telling mine to shelter in your own yes I thought you might have held me there forever and wondered how our bodies could return again to that shame that is not ours O if this cornered time shadow of a body could release itself again to that moment I could show you love the way we might have found it again on that beach but it all looks different under moonlight now and our lips have grown old with words and our hands with denial but you hold me still yes through tears I feel that buried place again where you said I was a flower of the mountain yes that is what I was a flower in eyes delicate enough to realize the same yes you seemed to know or feel what it was to be a man and I asked you to ask me again yes how you kissed me beneath that theater of the moon my mountain flower yes and I said yes I will Yes.

Lost

… lost somewhere between midnight and the heart,

lamplight kneeling at the end of its march,
the musical hush of darkness
conceding

where

love drifts at the end of an eyelash and I reach
to guard it in my palms

where the only map is a rose in blue,
and the fallen petals hold for our return
as the perfume fades and I remember

only the motion of my voice
as it was before

broken as I let it go

all for you, all for you

falling, falling

the unromantic expression on your tongue
reflects the same expression my eyes
feel within a sunset set over,
within a sunset set over,
over again.

in that shadow of a shadow we walk
until its dark enough not to tell:
feelings so far beneath us
as not to feel
the night
falling
on our skin.

love comes here to fade away
someplace between this heart and that–
the unwanted creation left
above or behind,
we cannot tell.

we: the hidden.
we: the pretend.
failing eclipse into a sunset set
over, set over,
again.

Late Night Drive

I half expected to see you waiting,
time undone, the body mistaken.
I drove away in the late hours
just to see if I could find you.
I thought I heard your name
folding over in the grey stone.
It was no voice but my own,
and the silence of your lips.
If I could just drive
far enough to find you,
the sun might meet us both
in the place we would cross.
It would be day again:
the whole world below us
like a dream we both shared
to make each other laugh.
I would draw you near,
but I could never draw
you near enough to fill
that distance between my heart
and the pedal pressed
so far against the floor
as to disappear, driving
on a moonlit highway–
roads stretching on forever.

Occupatio

I’m not saying that I’m asleep:
the days all feel a little dreamless.
When was it last I was awake–
sunlight breaking from my eyes?
I will not begin to wonder
at the way I have not felt
at home, or the thought
that love awaited leaving
when I wished it the most.
No– I will not consider
the chance I have lost
a companion in myself.
Never could I be
so lonely as to imagine
erasing it all.
no:no–
there is nothing
I could never say
to make it fade:
to fade along with it.

Morning Shower

One foot testing the water,
I stand unbalanced between
myself: the covered and the naked–
the space between silence
and an outward shell.

This water has touched skin before:
liquid time–eyes of the past.
It falls and rises: steam marking
mirror, water striking skin.

The heart beneath feels light
enough to be dissolved.
I shower with my clothes on today:
spongy armor, temporal cloth.

I never know how much I leave
behind; the water drowns away
so much with so little trace–
and each time just a little less,

until the distance between
barriers has been ground so far
as to be the same: no guard
between sorrow and body,
body and time.

The mirror is no help at the end
of it all: animated now by shadows–
a rosy kind of nothingness
more reflection than the glass.

In the gray, self-departed mist,
it is peaceful–no one to know
or remember: steamed out of existence,
so close to death as to be in love.

Amnesia

It’s better you hold the knife:
delicate wound, touch of an artist.
I want to forget you– rather,
remember myself in pieces.
Scattered into flesh,
the body becomes a map
all rearranged.
Do not retrace
what you dismembered:
the memory is best left
confused, the sorrow
all forgotten.
In falling apart,
the pathway is unclear:
the motion of love
without a face–
your heart buried
recreating my own.

Bull riding

Listen, cowboy–
the way the dust expires
from the spurs of your boots.
It foreshadows you:
holding to that rope,
spiral of two worlds.
In those first seconds,
born again, emerging
from the unlatched iron
womb, it’s easy to imagine
it could last forever.
It will not last.
Your arm can only reach
for heaven so long
before it falters.
You feel it now:
the balance slipping–
body folding prone,
hand bravely aloft.
I wish I could tell you
to keep holding, but
the faceless crowd drowns
out my broken voice.
It is you there, alone:
eight-count bell
rising to its crisis.
Like us all,
you will be thrown.
Floating, falling
we will not know:
spirit in a pirouette,
returning to the dust.

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