Sunday, June 24, 2007
We never really got along,
Flor and I. We didn't fight,
but each of us was always wrong,
and both of us were always right.
When she died she left her books
to me, as if to say there could
still be hope; if I'd but look,
the truth could only do me good.
She had the book-club canon, sets,
abridged if not digested, meant
to grace the shelves of teachers’ pets,
collectors never quite content.
From Sophocles to Vonnegut
the bleached, arthritic covers cracked;
her books had done their duty shut;
reading never broke their backs.
But one refused to rest in peace
at the lip of my donation box,
POEMS: its paper cover creased,
a survey text, an orthodox
enough recital of the basic lore,
the one she gamely lugged to class,
margins dittoing some tenured bore
convinced his elbow was his ass.
Looped carefully in fountain pen,
a young woman's earnest hand,
her pale blue Waterman’s:
“Man has let his body stand
for all of him,” she says of Schwartz’s
Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me.
An arrow to the “Bear” reports his
meaning: “WEIGHT,” and oddly,
“Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”
Hyde reflects and Jekyll raves?
“factotum,” glossed as “slave.”
But which? We bow to mystery,
move to stanza’s end, to “mad
destruction, death, debauchery.”
No need to bring in Mom and Dad,
it's only Schwartz on city life.
Another stanza left alone,
then: “Fear of death--and wife’s--
bothers body (belly & bone)
part of him (creature of a day,
always with him--no relief--
sorrow--pain.) Like Brother J.”
I close the book to read my grief.