with a

Vanishing Friend


I. Slower, Paler, More Distant

You warned me about this, and I had no choice

but to consent.

So your hair thinned; your right eye drifted

disharmoniously askew.

Night became fearful, a descent into broken

squares, too black to see: still and violent.

No touching hand could bring you back.

Blood, invisible, yours and mine, knew.

II. Winged

We spoke; it was early spring,

when gnats exploded

in the patio as if glad to see us,

a sudden surge of air in particles –

winged; it must have been wings;

we both saw them, felt them swiftly

scattered in pale sunlight; silvery, strange,

filled with letters, like your voice, determined

to speak beyond the sound

that you could barely make, in spite

of all wild desiring.

III. Disconcerting Staircase

I took your elbow as we began to climb,

lifting heavy shoes,

then saw the descent tilting downwards –

as Heraclitus said about the path;

too quickly;

and there we were together.

You understood long before I did,

and tried to say. I could only guess,

bending close, to hear your whispered word:

sounds, not varied, not more than

quick breathing,

like a prayer.

IV. The Narrow Room

Shrieks, screams, yells for help beat from wall to wall,

unassuaged, propelled from a bag of bones

no welcome hand could calm.

Wrecked eyes, blue claws, teeth jutting every which way

out of the mouth slicing its terrible spear tongue;

tears nailed down, blow against blow,

the closing wall stained with cries;

not your cries, o mild and patient friend,

but mine.

IV. Dark Space; Dark Hand; Dark Lines

You said the darkness that moved

over the book, the page,

and the lamp was there

to extinguish;

but then it built the walls, the floor

and crept close to the hand

at rest, or idle; waiting;

beneath every finger,

under the chin and around the curve

at the back of the neck, over

the imperfectly oval skull,

it waited;

hand upon hand, dark on subsiding

light, desire guiding desire,

misread as memory;

grasped as fulfillment

far from comprehension,

where each stroke could be

the forger’s intention,

or could unpredictably

speak, and mean not what was darkly,

blindly, thought; but extended,

a staff stretched out to what

is not yet.

V. Waiting

You acquired new friends, companions, perhaps

more amusing, knowledgeable, skilled

in conversation.

I was removed (gently) to ante rooms –

archaic, outmoded spaces in drawn sequence,

of classic grandeur and intimidation:

grey, white edged, all planes sanded, swept;

echoing, withdrawn from mercy, staid,

strict in quiet motion.

Did I catch your eye? Did you really wave

from so far – a shift beneath curtains; a hand;

a cheekbone curved away?

VI. Nondescript Landscape: Parergon

It happened just as you said it would,

over to the side, unnoticed,

where the river broke into darts

of light, and the banked shrub


It wasn’t the main event; everything else

was more important. People rushed, eyes

strained to see everything else,

away from the slight undulation;

the inaudible cry.

Reed steeped, a scrap surfaced: a note

or postcard with a stamp curling away

where the stream washed the hand,

soothing it.