They called the meal a celebration!
A lunch for 500 friends and tag-alongs.
Several women who had outlived the man
Had come to arrange pictures among the flowers
All of us could see who he had been as we walked by.
On a slide show over the stage they flashed pictures –
One in particular of him stripped to the waist
Brown skinned, lean,
Khakis looped to his small hips
By a brown belt pulled to its last notch -
Two men stood to talk of him:
Still flickering memories from decades before-
When the first man spoke
He wove together the patches
Of himself and his best buddies,
Bonded by nicknames but now separated
In the afterword that death brings -
Recounted when they rode bikes by the river,
The river that flowed in its banks
Before they built look-alike houses
And dead-earth levees -
Then the second man stood
To finish the first man's story -
Of how that night they rode together
To deliver a letter to a brown-eyed, black-haired girl,
The letter was the impatient scrawl of true love,
Testifying to the everlasting and the forever-
And before this old friend stepped down
He managed to take his story all the way to the end,
To his last days when Gordy rocked in his chair
Eyes wide open in tired sockets –
That ending looked nothing like the beginning
When a younger man kept his hair combed
And wore blue v-necks
And kept his teeth white -
First broad jumper, then tired ancient,
To dust and a shrinking circle of friends -
Who brought him back in words,
Who kept their eyes open,
To could hear him, see him, smell him -
Kiss his wrinkled cheek.
Just this once, stop long enough
To take in this wanderer one more time
The entirety of him who came to an end –
Don’t step to the side
When he reaches for your arm to hold him up.
The old soup, too, asks to be tasted.
Listen and push nothing to the side
He will only need a minute
So stay, sit
Lets talk of days long gone.
March 4, 2010