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by Charles Reynard
One chair remained, there in front
at the Newberry. He told
the rapt room poetry came
as inked markings of grief,
its most exquisite vessel,
vowel sounds. I tested: dull
pain of short a, Uhhh;
the keening of long e;
the chill and slow oh-no-oh-no
engraving of exquisite scars;
then he pronounced the consonants
managers of grief, the sharp
hastening to confine loss
to crypts, caging sadness in vaults.
Somehow it was clear animals
would lead him, descendant of wolf,
to know he has believed too much
in words, that his dogs would take him
to mountains higher than time.
After, assigned to the consonant
role of bodyguard so the long snake
of visitors, out the door down stairs,
would not weary him, I stood nearby,
suited presence saying without words
move along. When his escort said
for the fifteenth time, Mr. Merwin,
his voice as soft as thighs, wistful
as smoke, please call me William.
I drove them to the reception, later
to the hotel, conversing with him,
the blue madrigal of his eyes
offering what words always fail.
I lay alone, awake, the bushes
outside in the night rustling
like gossip, what a lovely place
to be in the mouth of yearning.
The italicized phrases in the fifth stanza are from "Fly"
and "Dogs", respectively, by W. S. Merwin