By Zachary Bos
Here at the waters’ edge the hands drop memory
- Hart Crane, “The Bridge”
Love is a matter of organization
- Ece Ayhan Çağlar, “Violet Rascal”
-for David Ferry
Where we paused to let another train pass
the calcareous patches of niter on the walls shone
visible like a grown contagion. The light bloomed
from bulbs strung on a double-braided wire;
the thick train soot gathered on every surface
reflected this light only dimly. The air was still.
A nausea of displacement came upon me then;
I could sense water seeping through the masonry,
depositing its candid stain on the damp surface
like a mollusk glazes itself with spit
hardening to precious nacre. The niter
gleamed like a crust of pearl in the unlit space.
The grime-covered bricks of the vaulted roof
repeated their muted pattern without gap.
Looking into the darkening distance, I recalled
the poet reading those lines about his father
in the afterworld—how his father reached out
as he approached the speechless ghost. I saw
in the darkening distance what I imagined
when I heard the poet read: the poet elderly,
and naked, heroic, wearing only a lion skin,
ready to carry the shade of his father seated
on the hide bunched across his gaunt shoulders,
the way Atlas bears the boulder of the world—
ready to bear him back across the Styx
and black Lethe and Ocean, back into the light,
a rescue no one has ever pulled off, even in myth,
a trick no one living can perform except in verse.
Buckling under the impossibility of returning
the beloved dead to life, the poet then wept
as he stood at the lectern, his shoulders slumped
in his tweed jacket, his head shaking loosely
at the end of the stalk of his body, dignified
and sorrowful in his black shirt. Out of his throat
came a cluster of ticking noises that I suppose were
the vowels and consonants of grief caught there
in a trap of mucus. I think his ripened eyes saw
the face of his father and his friends and his wife
receding into enveloping darkness as we watched
his lined face, dipping downward to his paper,
begin to break into sobs as his reading ended
and the auditorium broke into stunned applause.
Zachary Bos is editor of The New England Review of Books, nerobooks.org, and publisher of Pen & Anvil Press. An alumnus of the graduate poetry workshops at Boston University, his work as a writer and translator has appeared in Fulcrum, The Christian Science Monitor, Elsewhere, Lotus-Eater, The Battersea Review, Fallujah, Public Pool, Written River, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. He can be found on Twitter as @zakbos.