You can put it up in neon
or carry it on a sign,
just as long as people know,
the end is nigh.
It governed your vote for president,
how much you long for His return.
It’s had something to do with everything,
from who you married to the way you spurn
your gay relative, and how you discern
what to like on Facebook, and what to turn
away. I must admit I’m winging it, on Judgement Day.
Listening to Leonard Cohen sing “Take this
Longing,” of course I go right on to “Dance Me
to the End of Love,” then to “Hallelujah.” I could
stay with him all day, and well into the night, but
duty calls. Now he’s singing “There Ain’t No Cure
for Love.” YouTube can grab hold and never
let go, but for me it’s got nothing to do with yearning.
It’s the music, and the poetry, and as long as you’re gone,
I must admit I don’t miss you as much as I want to hear the next song.
Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water
To dream, but dreams are lost,
for it’s been years since I’ve
remembered mine. I didn’t get
to write my own version of
“The Road Less Taken,” although
I meant to try. Perhaps I’ve lived it,
or will, before I’m done. I know this,
that there is no sleep today, or in
many days to come. I have promises
to keep, and miles to go, many miles
ahead. Where they will take me,
I do not know. But I know I’ll be there,
to meet the rest of myself, when I arrive.
And life, and the memory of it, will be
there, too, I hope and pray. Let me
remember my life better than I
have remembered my dreams, until
I am too old to do anything but sleep.
How many times do we say that
to ourselves, when we smell the baby’s
diaper, and know the parents are out on a
date we sent them on, and won’t be back
for hours? When we see the old dog falter
in its steps, and know we can’t stop cruel,
inexorable time? When you, my love, look
puzzled when I try to play that game with you,
or read that poem you’ve always loved, and I
know you don’t remember, you’ll never remember
again, because so many details of our too-short
time together are already lost in the hippocampus,
where young memories go to die. I know I must
be up for this, for loving you, as your steps falter,
and you grow dim. I promise I will take care of
you, and make you laugh, even when you think
I’m just someone the agency sent,
to change your bedclothes.
I know you don’t know I exist,
and if you did, you wouldn’t want
me around, there being nothing new
I could teach you about Florida.
Hell, you camped for days in the
Ten Thousand Islands, and took
too many pills on Fort Myers Beach,
meaning to die there, if Sha hadn’t
found you. So forgive me, Elizabeth
Bishop, for stealing your lines when I
need a great finish, like rainbow, rainbow,
rainbow, or somebody loves us all.
You help me, daily, even when I’m not
writing poetry, obsessively. You help me
practice, losing farther, losing faster, as
we are all losing the time we crave, to finish
what we started. I love you, EB. Rest in peace.
I always count on you to say the dangerous
thing, the true thing, about Dick Cheney or
global warming, and damn if you didn’t do it
again, calling out Bruce Jenner for making
himself into a facsimile woman, practically
a Kardashian. I know you, Annie, and I
know you didn’t mean to be unloving to
Caitlyn or anyone else, but that you were
doing that thing we all do from time to
time, making Jesus drink himself to
sleep, or want to. We all embarrass
God when we open our mouths and
“the monkeys fly out,” as Zora Neale
Hurston would say. The monkeys fly when
we get it wrong, when we aren’t truthful,
when we aren’t worthy of ourselves,
let alone Jesus. I’m glad you’ve apologized,
not just to Caitlyn, but to all transgender
people, and their parents, and neighbors,
and teachers, and lovers, and friends. I’m glad
Sam’s got your back on this, telling us his mom’s
pretty clueless about trans stuff, but she’s still
his mom. And you’re still my fave, so get back
to work. Somebody loves us all.
Telling me to write a poem to a
YouTube song is about as useful
as telling me to stop loving you.
First of all, the damn ad comes on,
distorting from the get-go whatever
the song might have been. And
then the damn drums, like the
little boy who is supposed to play
for Jesus, but loud drums make
the baby cry, so what will we do
for a savior after that?
And what will we do, you and I?
Who will save us from what’s ahead,
the stove left on, the Silver Alert,
which we joke about, like its Florida’s
folly, but we both know we will need it
someday, if you get lost and I can’t find you,
on the way to Fort DeSoto or Sanibel. Who
will save us from this damn repetitive tune,
over and over again? I hope I’ll forget it
completely, today, this morning, before
breakfast, and not have it stuck in my head,
like “Three Times A Lady,” or God forbid,
“Come, they told me, pa rump a pum pum.”
Whatever we had missed, we possessed,
together, the precious, the incommunicable past.
If you google this last line of Willa Cather’s
classic novel, you will find out that the book
it finishes – perfectly, flawlessly – is part of a
project called The Big Read. You will also find
the epigram for the book, from Virgil:
“The best days are the first to flee.”
So what if someone changed it to
“The best geese are the first to fly”?
It would still be a proper sentence,
but it wouldn’t say anything Cather
meant to say, not that she didn’t like geese.
Kind of like when NEA printed up thousands
of readers guides, just as they still have it on
their website, with “precious” changed
to “previous,” making Cather into mush.
Making The Big Read into a silly read, a
meaningless exercise in great literature,
asking what it’s worth if we muck it up
with auto-correct and don’t bother to
fix it? Pardon this rant, but it should be
on record, somewhere, that the last sentence
of My Antonia was beautiful, and perfect,
and not to be tampered with. Amen.