Homage to Gustaf Sobin


Paul Gauguin — Café at Arles

Robert Kelly just sent me this, his “klagendes Lied,” for Gustaf Sobin:

MEMORIAL GUSTAF SOBIN

Arles no rain a shade
across stone bleachers
waited two thousand years for
our one conversation continues
continues

*

But also how we failed the words
by using them
he so few and I so many
and all the stone wanted
was the weight of men sitting there in evening sun

thinking such thoughts as men
ten thousand years ago cut
idly into shale or limestone
a thought you can share with a rock
revolution of the sign

*

rich men are so cautious
so sage, a spell of satire
wakes them, suddenly
sunlight in wet woods

*

Bardo: remember
when you get there
don’t talk about the weather

women never do and you
are on your way through the Woman House

couloirs, miroirs,

sunlight at the end of the hall
a bowl of flowers – what kinds? –
silhouetted against the strong light
but flowers are also a kind of weather
even though the crack through rock
so do not say the names of the flowers

*

a letter from the president of the republic
waits for each one of us
they read it out loud
in the funeral parlor
trying to imitate the gesture’s of the president’s hands

they wait for the whiskey to dry
on our mournful lips
so we can taste our skin again
the final answer

*

the letter is never signed
all letterhead and boilerplate
and you there spiral in the afterlife
waiting to be you again
a wait we share
who are non-one’d by such passage

*

it comes back
to coming back
no way out of the Arena

some days they fight bulls here
a ceremony in sunlight
that seems to me a shadow
of our conversation

and beyond that, before that,
of some action long ago
a different bull a different kind of man
and who knows who would win

but in our hard world we always know.

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