On The Meaning Of Things
(In memory of Dieter Herms)
He took me to my first opera.
I was 38 and he was dying.
He looked elegantly gaunt rather than infirmed
in an off-white double breasted jacket
suitable for summer.
It was 'Don Giovanni', in Italian with
German subtitles projected onto a screen.
"The plot is rather stupid," he said and already knew,
but enjoyed hearing Mozart again, the high point for him
being when he recognized an aria and could fit it
into the story.
He listened throughout near-faint
with the thinness of air, the crowded theatre,
and the constant drilling pain.
At intermission, he reserved a table
and we had champagne.
"This will be the last time we see each other,"
he said. "What is hardest for me to give up is memory."
I moved my seat closer to his, "Perhaps, memory too,
will be transformed," I said.
"Will I remember you?" he asked.
"In another way," I speculated,
as is all we can do
with the meaning of greetings and partings, and love
that resists death.
Originally printed in Poesía, Ollantay Press, 1995.
I Ask The Impossible
I ask the impossible: love me forever.
Love me when all desire is gone.
Love me with the single mindedness of a monk.
When the world in its entirety,
and all that you hold sacred advise you
against it: love me still more.
When rage fills you and has no name: love me.
When each step from your door to our job tires you--
love me; and from job to home again, love me, love me.
Love me when you're bored--
when every woman you see is more beautiful than the last,
or more pathetic, love me as you always have:
not as admirer or judge, but with
the compassion you save for yourself
in your solitude.
Love me as you relish your loneliness,
the anticipation of your death,
mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends.
Love me as your most treasured childhood memory--
and if there is none to recall--
imagine one, place me there with you.
Love me withered as you loved me new.
Love me as if I were forever--
and I, will make the impossible
a simple act,
by loving you, loving you as I do.
Originally appeared in the Berkeley Poetry Review, 1990 #26, 1992-93.