IN MEMORY

He tore himself open
like a star falling through heavens.

1.
Neither death nor madness could contain you.
We reason and we feel, and neither thing
was enough for you.
Yet once, secure in your long dress,
you laughed and tossed a shuttlecock
over the net.
The clairvoyant said your journey
now is separate.
Your path and his divided years ago,
although the same roof enclosed you.
And still they carried you away,
made you lie down among the old and sick,
until you joined them.
Neither madness nor death wall you in.
Sometimes at night I hear you cry out
for fame or release. Yet once, sheathed in
your long dress, you stood and talked,
a glass in hand, a cigarette
between your fingers.

2.
The world outside reduces us to tears.
Its beauty startles us, catching us unawares.
We drift from childhood and lose our sense.
Beauty enflames us, but we are jaded.
The world outside is filled with paths.
I see my father’s tracks sometimes,
like footsteps through the snow,
my mother’s only rarely, her step
cutting sideways over ice,
then like a line drawn down across a wall,
a thin line of daylight or
the line the moon makes
when it falls across your window.

3.
I knew you didn’t really love me.
What’s strange is how much I loved you.
Love is blind, they say,
or possibly is blinded
by itself, by the power of its hold.
What’s strange is how desire persists,
even when you know what you know.

4.
My father sits now in the void.
He grew old without my noticing.
He expected just to fade away,
with some reason—a tired, gentle sleep.
Not to drown like this in his own spit,
his anxiety suppressed.
How did Christ die? Suffocation,
one reader wrote,
his lungs no longer able to expel.
We all knew that angels
carried him away. Perhaps then
his body sunk, and men
were fooled.
My father died without expectations—
not for him the cello or his favorite theme.
I still see him in his favorite chair,
its arms of varnished wood—
his drink, his book, his countenance,
the house he built, the dogs he loved,
the different worlds he occupied, now lost.

We live in parallel, and our fears are the same.
We live in parallel, and share a common hunger.

5.
The Taoist immortals, there were seven,
could count on one finger the women they had had.
“There was just one,” they nodded. They agreed that she was perfect.
One day, in an old house by the river, the first immortal fell in love with shadow,
the second with substance, the third with no-name, the fourth with mind-as-mirror,
the fifth with no-desire. The sixth and seventh immortals sat together in one corner,
near a window that overlooked some rapids. Some hours passed, and one by one,
their colleagues fell away. The first disappeared forever.
The second crushed himself with stones. The third wandered mutely.
The fourth staggered blindly. The fifth returned and joined them in the corner.
Looking out, the sixth immortal gestured toward the river.
“How beautiful when excited.” The seventh nodded.
The fifth immortal shook his head. “How exquisite when possessed.”
The sixth nodded. The fifth immortal shook his head.
“This is just a river,” he said finally. They agreed that it was perfect.