I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the third poem in the second section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details.
I must say that the longer I continue with this project, the more difficult it becomes to bring my full attention to each poem without some calculation entering into it. That is to say, as my desire to write poems in response comes to feel increasingly compulsory, my reading becomes increasingly distracted and fragmentary.
Losing a Friend
by Paul Zweig
When the anger finally came
We were starting to find how much we already knew
About dead friendships . . .
[Remainder of poem removed 9-08-05]
* * * *
How many friends have I neglected
because I was too busy waiting for
the long shadows of January
or watching clouds cross some ephemeral
forest pool, dark with tannins?
How many friendships have withered
while I stalked a slug along an oak log
orange with fungi, agog at its ability
to glide on an instant carpet
& retract the stilts of its eyes
all the way into its head?
I’ve lost friends & learned how to be
merciless with myself – I mean,
how to edit.
Living in this mountain hollow,
I tell myself I could never take
the same walk twice.
I have planted myself here like
a yellow birch sapling on top of a hemlock stump
that rots away even as the birch encircles it
with an apron of roots, & a hundred
years later it still preserves, unseen,
the hollow shape of the corpse
that gave it life.