p o e m s m i k e c h a s a r
Each beach—the white band of sand, the long, thin
final edge of land—
is neither as long,
nor as white, nor as final as I’d first planned. I thought
that it would stretch as far as the eye could see
(my opus, my work,
my legacy). But no,
just as the sand’s not as white as it might be—
sullied by seaweed and shells and stones and bones
and other things the world
has hurled at me—
so it seems that my beach is always within eye’s reach
and that someone else’s shore, furthermore, is better,
their sand’s more fine
or it’s just simply wetter
in the end than mine. And with the way the waves
keep changing the work I’ve done, there’s barely time
to drop in a whine
or to simply go on out and tan.
Smoky, what is this ‘good life’? I’m so unsure that this
is the shore I set out to build way back when when I began.
Freddy Freddy Freddy Freddy Freddy. The closer the end
the fewer the friends. Oh
I contend we all
drift apart lose touch get so busy have too many other
things to do (let’s not pretend) that sooner or later,
your division divides
(though no one intends it).
Sooner or later the phone calls stop and the letters dry,
no one expresses a genuine interest in ‘just stopping by.’
So what do we do?
When ‘bro’ turns to ‘friend,’
and ‘friend’ becomes ‘bud’ and ‘bud’ ‘a guy I once knew,’
we just let it go—we surrender the foxholes and fronts,
the gusto, grief and growth.
At Christmas we muster an echo of each other’s hellos
’til time and distance and death cap the rest of the game.
When one of us dies
the other’s left asking,
“Now what was his name? What was. His. Name.”
I did one small step of the Cajun two-step and I knew
that I was made for both
this Cajun style of life
as well as the style of life I’ve spent all these years
shaking and baking with you. When last we spoke
I left with a sigh
and one prolonged
choked-up and snowy wintertime goodbye. But I
haven’t spoiled for eating the crawfish boiled, nor
(I have to say)
for all the gumbo jumbo,
nor for downing the breakfasts of biscuits and grits
and creamy-rich, stop-my-heart, crawfish etouffé.
But that one single step
of the Cajun two-step
I danced in Breaux Bridge, Lafayette and New Iberia
has left me in the numbing cold of a brand new Siberia.
Smoky, I need me a lead,
a reciprocal heart—or,
even better, I think, the second step of a lifelong partner.
Remember: the bite of the howling wind makes thin
the fullest of wool
and meek sheep leap bleating
from all of their too-cold, toehold strongholds as you
leapt bleating from me. Remember how
the heat-seeking hooves
rattle floors and doors
and windows and roofs? And remember how down-
town blanches faced with such unplanned avalanches?
Remember the riot,
the sudden break
in the reading room quiet, the terrible hubbub as they
break in and repose on the living room carpet like hay?
when everything’s said,
when this woolly stampede and its cleanup are through,
winter is never fully the wolf that it seems at the time.
This is what hindsight will do:
I will wait
in the hills like an armchair and keep a light on for you.
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