Scrawled Lightness of Remembrance

Upon the death of W.S. Merwin (9/30/1927—3/15/2019)

those bucket bearers
word carriers bees lifting barrels
he sent benediction into boy’s
blood Sonora riot recounting
Bob Dylan Stafford Peter Gabriel
WS Merwin busted knees from
blasting Suzuki into
desert realms dogeared
Carrier of Ladders old US
Army rucksack —  Neruda, Borges,
Marquez, Octovio Paz
“for the anniversary of my death”

his poem I prophesied
nineteen with sister
slain on road from Kamloops
to Tucson sideswiped
Harley skidded-over
now his death silent “tireless
traveler”

juxtapositions made
his words boy to man
reckless wrestling burning
billboards boy’s own music
treble cleft of poet Merwin
until my 20th birthday
tall man there Tucson
reading to whispering
crowd turtle neck dashing
really nothing like my dread-locks
hard sun skin at 20
yet he sang to me treble and bass
no tribal Yusef Komunyakaa drum

Merwin’s vines stilled anger
touched thin bone near heart
my rage bullets into Mexican night
turned to free-tail bats
famous poet sickened with
full force of Vietnam War
tucked inside my rucksack
next to .44 magnum

WS Merwin me with tumbler
of whiskey 1977
he said something like
“stay concealed in
your hate
of wars in our name
stay hard with sinew
for love of desert
ecosystems”

poet refused laurels
Pulitzer Vietnam war like acid
on his tongue

Now this —
We are the shadow of Sirius
There is the other side of
as we talk to each other we see the light
and we see these faces
but we know that behind that
there’s the other side
which we never know

those falling embers
once rockets to Sirius
coal black ash to soil
I touch living poet
“tireless traveler
like beam of a lightless star”
Merwin’s shape whale spray
I now seize in Oregon

death is no glowing dove
nothing bright moving as shapes
above WS Merwin like
all tribes from each book
travel with me
Merwin me that is for
sure even whiskey tequila
the shape of his eyes
setting upon me thirty
years his junior
but my brother
his words coffin bearers over
and over starting with a dead sister:

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Note: “For the Anniversary of My Death,” by Merwin.

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. He organized Part-time faulty in Washington State. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his autobiography, weekly or bi-weekly musings and hard hitting work in chapter installments, at LA Progressive. He blogs from Otis, Oregon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.