What Friends Say

Jason moved across the floor on his hands and knees,
I see him this way constantly, in that scooting motion,
making his way to the records lined against the other wall.
Dawn is lighting up outside. He says,

“You have to know what you mean
before you mean what you say.”

crowds-jc bourcart_tweaked_600
Photograph by Jean-Christian Bourcart

He was always handing down these admonitions
while flipping through records, high on dope
and curiosity at the same time, in that infant addict stage.
He couldn’t be bothered
with what he hadn’t deduced on his own.

In the hospital, his father told him to pull the plug,
and he did it. End of story.
It’s not just anyone who can be troubled.
I for one am not guilty today, I said,
I’m only singing.

Years later, on the day Jack Gilbert died, word came
that our apartment would have to be vacated.

I listened to Gilbert’s reedy, able voice
reading poem after poem and, frankly, didn’t feel much better,
just more enlightened: the Jewish women at Dachau pushing out the Nazi guard
who wanted to die with them and singing
“for a little while” after the chamber door closed.

Under dull skies of November,
I see Jason, long dead now, turn,

after the flowers have just gone, the fleeting
architectures of a world just past that refuses

to place blame on anyone
and exists only for a peculiar sort of genius

made of misery & anger. Even Spring, singing,
blows down its roses

and the buds crumple down upon
a conclusion in which they too have no say, saying

suns come up, rains bristle the rivers, winds chop
the big bodies of water, suns go down again.

And moons, like women, like Jason, if you’re lucky, pop up at weird moments
athwart buildings, mirrored in car windows, looking

at you within reach, offering so much light
they cancel light.

–Pete Simonelli

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