This poem is for my late friend and long-time mentor, Stephen Watson, one of the finest poets and essayists of his generation.
in memoriam Stephen Watson
There, on the shore, those broken rocks
fragment the light and shade. I see you
on the sand, now waving faintly
from that other side, where life
seems a mirage in dimming green.
You face comes clear, now seen-unseen,
because I am awake. The sea
forms you in waves in which you wade
until you’re almost solid again,
alive in the poems you made.
You loved that bay. It glitters, of course,
with grey-tailed fish in swilling green,
a foaminess brewing in the sun
above a wave that runs without breaking.
Salt-air at morning, salt at night,
the fires of air and light that become
this beautiful place. Your shade stood here
and said to me: watch darkness come.
What words, now, for those of us left?
We crowd around ourselves, we measure
our shadows fretfully. Like a child
that knows it is growing up too fast
and feels too small, I know that age
is duty, inevitable. What words –
for the friend you were, the light you brought
into every walk on foaming sand?
Your face half-gone in my deepest memories,
but resurfacing, clear, in dreams.
To write is to cry, or cry out, perhaps.
To wait for the burning horizon to tinge
to duskier darkness, less outraged.
Less understood than the words that bled
to the page, but seen by so many more.
That natural shore, that freak of nature…
How do I tell you what I feel now?
Writing may not be what can save us:
dull curse of a dimming consciousness
hurtling towards a dead end.
Do I leave you here, or call you again?
When the doors unlock and the keys fall rusted,
what comes in? I’ve tried to escape
the inevitable, falling away
from holding everything tight, too tightly.
Now looking up at the vanishing sky
I imagine dying. Words are as nothing.
One keeps writing, God knows why.
There is a line of light foam teasing
water out, slowly, bubble by bubble.
Only the pink sand shows its meat-like,
underdone, helpless colour to us.
What’s out of reach is going, further
and further, into a washed-out past.
Do I follow you, line-inch by line-inch,
where waves pour and pour to themselves?