POEM: “Stephen”

‘Infinity Light. | Barboursville Park, WV | TheStoryIsTheThing.com

1.

Where have you gone, Stephen?
Now, this night I need you.
And just you, the gravitas

of your bulldog self. Your ancient
belief in me. Rather, a belief that dates
to 1977 or thereabouts. Ancient enough

for we beings allotted
no more, usually, than 100 years.
We cherish companions

who know us through our long game.
Who saw us, grokked us as greenhorns
in this life business. Witnessed

our intoxicated upchuck in their
bedroom one prom night. We weren’t invited,
not quite understanding this

other race of beings, with their
longer hair which intoxicated with
its scent of lemons and hay.


2.

Where have you gotten off to,
my friend? Why am I here
without you in the midst of

my seventh decade? And,
will we meet again on down
the long road? Tumbling like

rocks worn smooth as glass
in the truly ancient surf of Earth.
I am, tonight, so restless in my

bed, I abandon the struggle to
sleep. Leave my companion
to snore on lightly, traveling

the byways and occluded
paths of dreams. I am back
in my TV chair, TV off.


3.

Well more than 100 years old,
the antique clock upon the
piano top cranks up, prepping

to clang the midnight hour —
12 gongs that will dissolve like
‘leaden circles in the air.’

These reverberations delineate
today from tomorrow. Or is it
yesterday from today? Time’s

fiction is always more
apparent at these hinge points,
unmasking artificial declarations

and agreements by which
we human beings mark off the
unrolling of our days and years.

However many that we get.
Stephen left the stage before even
7 decades. I learned he was gone

from social media. Dead in
Houston. It was the midst of
my workday, a crowded newsroom.

My editor facing me in her cubicle,
two other colleagues catty-corner
and beside of mine.


4.

I’d not seen him in the flesh
for decades. Remorse, then. Guilt,
maybe. I’d reached out in some

despair a year back. He’d
answered, as I knew he would,
shoring me up. Then, one day

a draft of a novel in my
e-mail box. A very, very good
one. He was likely the best

fiction writer in our Ohio college.
Yet the novel remains in limbo,
after his leavetaking.

I avert my gaze from the posting
announcing his death from
lung problems that bedeviled him.

Utter some low, guttural
moan. Feel my head drop onto
my arms, as if lopped off.


5.

Weeping on my desktop.
When somebody dies who was
with you while you stumbled,

scraped and scrambled
from your childhood into
young adulthood,

who saw you the day after
you lost your virginity to his
dearest friend whom you’d met

through him, who handed you
an opium joint while crossing
a campus quad between pools

of yellow light and charcoal
darkness — when someone like that
in your life dies before you’re ready

for them to be gone forever,
to be unable to write them a
poem in explanation, instead of

a letter, and they respond with
kindness, reassurance, heart,
and praise, when someone like

that dies, halfway across the
country, even though you’ve
not witnessed each other’s

flesh for decades, when they’re
suddenly out of reach, then
weeping is what happens. I

don’t know where you’ve gotten
off to, my friend, or if we’ll meet
again somewhere far down

the road. All I know is I
feel you, wordless, tonight.
Quiet, yes, but there.

+ huntington.wva.april 20.2021

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