Thursday, September 11, 2008

When Someone Dies

I think I knew them.
I knew of them.
I worked with them.
I met them at a party.

Him. This time, it's him.

I chant a poem to my mother and it's only lines are

It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.
It happened to her.

What is it that happened most? Life? Or death? Where are we left? Where am I?

I think I.
I think "I".
As a gateway to remembering, I start with myself. What do I know?

I write this blog at last because it's only tonight that I've finally read his.
His email contact at the top right column.
I check my computer's address book. There it is. The same.

I pull a book of poems from a shelf. Some Are Dying by Reginald Shepherd, who died last night in his sleep, fighting cancer? Shaking hands with it, bowing? Turning his back to it to write a poem into the ashy air of his last dream become his first? What do I know about Reginald? About his work? His whole body of work? His whole body. I don't think I feel. I feel. I believe in the continuum, I tell myself. I don't know anything. I feel. Something will come round to fingertips, to nerves, to fluttering lashes at the neck of a lover, a pillow, the breeze from the open window. Come round from somewhere to here. I ring a mental bell. Passing through.
What can an oeuvre tell about an actual body, a somebody? Are we not skeletons fleshed with refrain? Some Are Dying is the only book of Reginald's I have. His first book. At random now I flip the book open, press, break the spine. For once, I don't wince.

What Cannot Be Kept
He was dreaming of the factories across the water's fog
and pillared smoke, a man listing toward him in a paper boat
whose outstretched palm read Wait. He was laid out
on a lawn chair in the park; and that night
boys were dancing in the branches of the trees
at the party, floating in the crotch of two limbs,
their motion the blur between nature and sex.
the color of them prints across the eye
as plums, in verging autumn, print heavily on the open palm. They fall from such
trees, the trees are barren: held up at the cusp of two
seasons, both falling, one so-called. he dreamt he was
starving, so slim he could slip between
the horn and the ivory gates; their flesh wears away to a winter's
witness, the history of fleeting ripeness packed
in salted lines and photographs unfolded
while it snows. The originals
are ruined, worn to a mirror's whiteness by the river
trucks drive over, cemented with the progressive sediments,
the waste of fruitfulness sanded down
to almost-morning mist.

Reginald Shepherd, Some Are Dying, Pitt University Press, 1994


Jen said...

thanks for this.

Amina said...

This question stays with me: "What is it that happened most? Life? Or death?" I feel like it must be life.

Silver Downes said...

Yes. It must be life.