I think these words are still warm.
Bend close—there is a breath
coming from them. See
how the lines rise and fall, pulse,
how he is slow to leave these poems,
in which he has lived for many years.
In time he will turn them completely
over to us for safekeeping, but not yet.
I face this book as I often faced him.
He could be hiding behind it, wearing it
like a mask before he slips from the words
into the spaces between the lines
and then into the margins. Now this book
has a new life as a handshake, a long one,
so long it becomes instead a handclasp,
though the flesh is papery, dry.
And lines keep revealing themselves
to be a goodbye wave, each a rehearsal
more for our sake than his. It is not
his fault that we missed the gesture.
I am afraid to put this book down,
afraid to close it. I did not know
a book could be raw, skinned, as it were.
Afraid to touch it. Afraid not to.
In Stoneboat, 5.1, fall 2014