Conversations with the dead


Today I visit you again
on the deathbed where you lay,
thin trickle of blood

escaping the envelope of your body
for the last time. The nurses
had stripped you naked, out

of the parchment gown that tied
at the nape with no other fastenings
in the back, the sail of a boat

left open to the winds. Or perhaps
did you climb up to the crow’s nest
on bare feet, did you disappear

in the fog we made of our grief?
I’m not sure you can hear, so far
away now from the squall

of our living. I confess I saw
your sex before they covered you
with a sheet: ashen, shrunk into

the fading hull of you;
and the closed blue caves
of your eyes. Still,

I hope for some kind of sign
or flicker— pale slick of light
at the edge of a window,

the taste of salt leached
at last from the water in my cup.
All the poems I read from the world

burn with such noise, such
confident anger; bristle with brilliant
syllables. Everywhere I turn, each shadow

declares itself more beautiful than the next.
—Tell me, father, that there are joys
that come in quieter colors.

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