THE SEPARATE SIDES OF NEED

I

Mother, he was meant for mountains,

meaning always to go, he stayed

more generous than wise, he kept

his promises and stored his dreaming

like secrets escaping now and then

in whispers from his eyes; so sure

of him, I dreamed him more than father,

while you believed him more than man.

Understanding nothing of his death,

we thought to measure time in years;

betrayed, his grin was boyish still,

his skin tan and weathered, his hands,

his hands that promised everything, strong.

     Beyond the wreckage

     of our separate lives

     we moved like cripples

     to each other’s need

     and carried him a while

     in sorrow like a heavy

     sack, willing him away

     calling him back.

             

                        II

Beside his neatly tended grave

you bend to ivy wrinkling to stone,

parting the years to find him cold,

your fingers stroke the marble

of his name, sorrow beating at you

like storms that break

against the trunk of stout stone trees.

                         III

Oppressed by rusting gates that hung

at angles to the wind and concrete paths

that buckled to a frozen soil, knowing he

would not warm his hands beside the fire

of our grief or settle for a place

that did not breathe, I looked

for him where mountains move

through space to time.

                        IV

Against my cheek, I feel his breath

warm like tears, and hear his voice

remembering my name; his fingers stretch

like shadows to my hand, across

the face of afternoon.

     He comes now often,

     wrapped in winter and lives

     like sleeping things beneath

     a covering of snow.  Mother,

     I can not go with you again

    to worship at his bones;

     he is here, what need

     has he for stones.

  • Susan A. Katz, all rights reserved

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