Old friend, always so blushing with life
forgive me if I say I was shocked
to find you so white,
so cold and smooth, unyielding
I’ve basked in your warmth these thirty years
I must have thought it would never change.
Did you say wake up, wake up?
Now the cold moonlight
enlightens my steps, the water
icy and frothing
cascades from the heights where
everything feels like understanding
and forgive me if I think, for a few moments
who wants understanding?
It’s true, our companionship,
yours and mine, was
if always comforting
not always comfortable
but we were allies, were we not
– in the end we were surely allies:
our paths parted, but met again.
Did she truly say that, if you
leave me, then I’ll leave you?
Did she say that to you? I could not
have imagined her so cruel;
hurt must have done it to her.
perhaps the same hurt I feel when
you turn away, don’t speak.
Out in the wide ocean the Gulfstream
the unpredictable dragon
shakes out its tail
rain and snow and biting
southerly winds come and go
with no semblance of their old order
I watch your cold fever, weeping for you.
After the turn of the year, I know,
the soil smells different:
again hope and innocence
have tangible strands
(the robin on his bare birches
is speaking to me of this)
but fatuous it’s not, I’ll dare hope
In the end it’s going somewhere, that
the note is different each new year
subtly, infinitesimally, by increments.
This is good enough, old friend
but my peers are those others
frail and stooped, those ones
dried and rattling in the wind
Remember that. A tooth cracks, a white
hair shows and
the end’s coming, she announces
but you say the new shoot always splits
the ground, the sod, the dried bleached
detritus of before. It splits it
and how could that be without pain.
You’ve inflicted pain, old friend,
inflicted it on me, on her, and on
yourself. So you’ll say I shouldn’t give up hope
but what is hope to me
I ask you, what’s its function.
I used to speak to her through you
but now, as you lie there still and cold
whatever I say, I don’t think she’ll listen:
unless I can raise my voice louder
than winter, much louder
than these lungs might suggest
and speak to the ears of many
I’ve little hope she’ll listen
now that I’m white noise for her.
You tell me spring
is just around the corner – no,
you whisper it, barely audible
yet want me to believe:
a spectre rising, out of you –
is that an angel, a guide?
A white thing, old friend, just a white thing.