Song for Stanley Kunitz
Creature to creature,
two years before we met
I remember I passed his table
at the Cedar Tavern.
He who never knew his father
seemed to view all strangers
as his father’s good ghost,
any passing horse as capable
of being Pegasus, or pissing
in the street.
I who knew my father
was wary of any tame raccoon
with claws and real teeth.
At our first meeting forty years ago,
before the age of discovery,
I argued through the night
against the tragic sense of life;
I must have thought God wrote in spit.
I keep a petrified clam, his gift, on my desk.
These gray rings and layers of stone,
the shape of a whale’s eye, are old as any desert.
Measured against it, the morning, the Hudson River
outside my window are modern and brash;
the star of David, the cross, the hand of Fatima,
are man-made weather vanes.
My clamstone has weight and lightness.
It is my sweet reminder that flesh,
perhaps love, can remain in the natural world
longs as poetry, tides, phases of all moons.
Tomorrow I shall wear it in my right eye,
a monocle for my talk on the relationship
between paleontology and anthropology.
Bless Celia, the cat of his middle years,
with her ribbons and hats, her pagan smile.
Bless the bobcat that was his in boyhood,
that killed a police dog in battle
on Main Street, Worcester, lost a foot for it
and had to be shot. A child with a leaf in his head,
he walked through Scabious Devilsbit,
Marshrag wort, Vernal grass
until the meadows wept. Bless his first garden,
his bird feeder still there after 81 years.
Did any of his long forgotten kindnesses
alter history a little?
What a Luftmensch he might have been,
his feet barely touching Commercial Street,
dancing home at three in the morning
with an ocean of money!
But how could he face the moon or the land
beside his house without a garden? Unthinkable.
I think what is written
in roses, iris and trumpet vine
is read by the Lord God.
Such a place of wild and ordered beauty,
is like a heart that takes on the sorrows
of the world . . . He translates into all tongues.
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Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.