What still believes in ink and paper lives
beneath a cragged rock
answering to the names of law and whimsy
and the rules of county vital records.
With all the tenderness of dry toast
and burnt coffee make amends for your art
and for everyone else’s
failure. Small enough to fit in this box;
bad coffee in a paper cup.
I walk across
the parking lot and let
my mind empty onto the empty concrete.
A mouse at a sweater yanks out strands
with no sense of the pattern it destroys. Only into
the clearest water can the ecstatic vision pour;
only the silenced mind
hears the sound the ghosts make in passing..
The first time you say “I love you” it means
“don’t go,” and it’s patently futile --
everyone leaves --
it’s as easy as a bus ticket or getting a day older.
Your children leave and they mean to, your parents
leave and they don’t. The bus stops,
the party ends -- everyone has somewhere to go.
I have these spaces to fill (birthdate. birthplace).
I am drinking cold coffee on a cold day.
Even funerals are a party. Potluck --
you bring your own contempt and unresolved
issues. People say nice things, mostly. It’s all
very generic -- macaroni salad, cold cuts. Pale
bread for the pale rider.
Later it will snow, just a little, and an argument
will start and then lie down under a card table.
On the death certificate you just write in
all the things you know
for all the questions they ask. Everything else
has to go somewhere else, sorry.
Burying the dead turns out to be just the start, just
the first thing we do with them.
After the first has taken the coffin away,
the second line carries you both home
on the ferry back over the river to the land
where nothing is ended, where
the dead walk back into the house with us.
We say it is love and dress them in ink and paper;
we say we are done but only meant this one part.