I used to think the past was a god
laid to rest in the graves of books
that no one reads, in a paradise
where the quiet is so absolute
no body drums a passage through the page.

All those nights I lost going down
to the shore, when I walked alone
beside the gardens gone sweet with dark,
I left something of a story behind
my words to tell it. Even now I live

where I can never be, though I see
in my many mistakes along the way
the angel of a death that weighs my heart
against the feather of a better life.
Today I learned a friend of mine is dying.

It’s something so rare he lived with it
for years, unknowing, so now he has two,
maybe three, to watch his choices narrow
to the repertoire of miracles
that move an arm, an eye, a diaphragm.

Perhaps it is the free movement of things
that first persuades us they are deserving
of a name. Before they can belong
to a world, they belong to themselves,
bound, as we say, to change position

like something that has not happened yet.
I am sending out a prayer, unsure
it goes anywhere at all, let
alone all the way there, beyond the meat
and fear that holds a body to its bones.

Somewhere in my memory I help
the pieces of a man around, thinking
what this place needs is a little light.
So much time to wonder where we are,
or were, or hope we will have been, until

the skies disconnect their constellations
and plunge, released, nameless to the sea.
There is no shepherd of the stars.
Every breath we take they rise
and fall. Less a particle, more a wave.






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