After the Teacher

for Norbert

I built a crude altar
old bricks and white stones
for the sculpture that gently bubbles,
the sound of water in my garden –
like Basho’s frog jumping in,
you’d like that.
Yet with morning coffee in one hand
and your book in the other I hear
lawn mowers, airplanes, and car engines racing.

There is not enough quiet.
I need more silence. I need
to hear the untowed words
summersaulting in my head.
I need to hear your words.

I know why you left this city.

And now you’ve left us all
for even more silence –
no dramatic thunderclap of shotgun,
your exit was a door closed
softly, only the sound of the bolt
catching the strike.
No northerly will open it again.

I ordered one of your early books
from a used book dealer. It arrived signed –

yours was a difficult handwriting.

You once wrote:
I write on my paintings to be heard
as well as seen.

And I understand now
why I play my saxophone
during my poetry readings.

And I hear your deep
articulated voice,
clear and sharp
as a boning knife. So I
write louder –
in your words
there is an icy courage.

Within the watercolor painting
of this book cover, you brushed
a blue-yellow-red landscape
and inked the words:
Wolfsong, crow woman,
Night horse, afternoon of the sun
And the rainbow dance.

Your rainbow dance sings,
beats an ancient rhythm –
I hold your book close
careful not to break the binding.

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