for Ed and Marcia Ward
The presence of absence pervades as time marches on.
I’m lying on the floor listening for
the distant thunder,
sounds like deep songs,
like old lost friend’s voices milling
around the cosmos,
their chairs scraping the floor
in the El Chapultepec Bar.
The heat lightning of revelation strobes:
LA, Denver, Albuquerque,
where flashes of inspiration
became epic burns
and the smoke tonight
Memory, not as mellifluous as camaraderie
but I can hear them
there is more than
echoes and ashes dancing in time
to see or feel
or praise. The
changing features of the sky
can alter life and the lightning
burns holes in their names
as the standing rain fills them
with an unforgettable beauty.
— John Macker
For Mike Taylor
“sadness, I need your black wing.”
Thinking of you from “over Raton Pass
and across the river”, where loss flows forever
into the flat haunted silence of the plains,
suddenly your death wasn’t burdened
with imagery, necessarily, but
just enough to pinch the soul closed or
force the heart to tell stories about itself
in the mirror.
The news was bitter,
a toxic lozenge on the tongue or
a night that blows in with a purposeless wind
that wraps its voluptuous cold
around autumn. Most things
wilting, the snap, crackle, pop of a
morning walk, the
sweet hangover of memory.
I just saw you in Denver, white-haired, gracious
papa polar bear, bent over the words in the room,
like an old Ute chief,
letting the campfire smoke
wash over you.
We made a deal long ago with the muses:
We’d give as good as we got
We promised not to live forever
The streets would remember us only in
November and only when it rained-
You had cast your poke and poems into the
golden foothills light of family
white wing, you
wrote, “and even if I could, so what?”
Now the earth is a little more unsteady on its feet.
We could use more rain.
Like Neruda’s abandoned doors,
You will swing again as the soul opens
The river in your voice still flows and
will always be my friend.
— John Macker
After the funeral in Denver, driving south into New Mexico
It’s February on the winter betrothed
plains. I share an anonymous rest stop with a lady
trucker, she cooks something in the parking
space on a small grill.
I can see her breath as she empties
the used grey coals into the snow. I
walk to the fence line and not far beyond it,
near the Canadian River, they
say a trail stop, some structure, a homestead,
once raised a
family, was a life-giving lone prairie light
against the darkness and was abandoned un-
ceremoniously, maybe to the last straw of a blizzard,
or the coming of the railroad,
maybe to the last man standing
over Johnny Cash singing, “There Ain’t No Grave”,
the night when there was no darkness worth its
weight in damnation more remorseless than this
the last of the whisky finished with a flourish
in the gothic cold
rolled empty back into the black space that was
once a well-lighted room.
— John Macker