Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 27: Bert, Philip Levine, "Ascension"

In these last weeks, I find myself drawn to poets and poems that remind me of my father in some way.  Poems by older men, of my father's generation.  Poets who look like my father.  Poems in which I can hear my father's voice.

I don't think that I'm wallowing in grief.  I think that I'm searching for something.  I'm not sure what.  Closure?  Acceptance?  Love?

Yesterday, I found myself listening to a speech given by former United States Poet Laureate Philip Levine at the Library of Congress at the end of his laureateship.  His lecture was about forgotten poets who had influenced him.  Poets who, he thought, should be remembered.  I found myself incredibly moved my his words, as he spoke about these writers as if they were friends he'd lost to war and cancer and car accidents.

This evening, I found out that a wonderful gentleman and local poet passed away yesterday.  He was also of my father's generation, full of wit and kindness.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.  His name was Bert.

Saint Marty is thankful to have been able to call him a friend.


by:  Philip Levine

Now I see the stars
are ready for me
and the light falls upon
my shoulders evenly,
so little light that even
the night birds can't see
me robed in black flame.
I am alone, rising
through clouds and the lights
of distant cities until
the earth turns its darker
side away, and I am ready
to meet my guardians
or speak again the first words
born in time.  Instead,
it is like that dream
in which a friend leaves
and you wait, parked
by the side of the road
that leads home, until
you can feel your skin
wrinkling and your hair
grown long and tangling
in the winds, and still you
wait because you've waited
so long.  Below, the earth
has turned to light but,
unlike the storied good
in Paradise, I see no going
and coming, none of the pain
I would have suffered had I
merely lived.  At first
I can remember my wife,
the immense depth of her eyes
and her smooth brow in morning
light, the long lithe body
moving about her garden
day after day, at ease in the light
of those brutal summers.  I can
see my youngest son again
moving with the slight swagger
of the carpenter hitching
up his belt of tools.  I
can even remember the feel
of certain old shirts
against my back and shoulders
and how my arms ached
after a day of work.  Then I
forget exhaustion.  I forget
love, forget the need to
be a man, the need to
speak the truth, to close
my eyes and talk to someone
distant but surely listening.
Then I forget my own trees
at evening moving in the day's
last heat like the children
of the wind, I forget the hunger
for food, for belief, for love,
I forget the fear of death,
the fear of living forever,
I forget my brother, my name,
my own life.  I have risen.
Somewhere I am a god.
Somewhere I am a holy
object.  Somewhere I am.

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