My friend Marilyn has a poem in the new Salamander
Today I try to touch you through your voice
now chattled to the answering machine
and answering to our password TRICK which fails
to trick you to emerge—-merely bypasses
to robotic messages—-“give, support”—-or
reminds of an appointment or something owed.
Three “unavailable” names are on the phone marquee.
We used to joke, “Someday phones will let us speak
to all the dead we loved and wished to know.”
Hardy, for all his gloom, found Emma, sometimes “haunter,”
“phantom,” through one hundred poems of apology.
(Is to stay alive not apology enough?)
My words fail to find you as I sit in your chair
listening to the snowmelt slide from rooftops.
Oh, I can say these sounds resemble Joe’s sotto voce
ways of giving and, yes, here he is sitting beside.
Oh, too contrived; I fail once again.
Analogies do not quicken the heart.
His voice must become its own equation. I hear
the slight raspiness, a voice needing to settle
as in an adolescent boy. That hesitation to say
the given name when he questions how self belongs
in the world. Joe pauses after the “Joseph,”
makes the last name emphatic. I wait for the final
syllable “ich,” fortissimo breath
I always mean to snare as if I were the fisherman
in The Arabian Nights casting out his net, frantic for
a catch and fervent, praying Allah will provide.
I’ve never sought for lost souls; yet mean to find
a jinni or a Solomon’s ring to locate who you are.
Soon after the day you vacated (not “passed”),
I found you absolute in a robin—hoped for . . .
The bird turned tail to face me, jaunty and
sharp-eyed, yellow beak beckoning, his breast
orange-amber—-for you, a precious color
like the hue of a Buddhist robe. He became
my companion, trotting left of me, then right,
always looking behind during this quirky
zig-zag. Didn’t fly away ever. . . gone.
In October I thought you were the single pansy
staunch and glowing in that morning chill . . . .
You who always praised “negative capability”—-
is that why you won’t appear? To affirm your presence?
You leave me only magic and the shadow of dreams—-
and even there you escape me. What’s left only
the accident of shape or object—-in my hand
this dried loop of fusilli. (All pasta made you smile!)
Ascending now like winding stairs, once cooked,
these curlicues play smooth on the tongue.
“Take a forkful. . . swallow.”