Donald Justice (1993)
for Henri Coulette (1927-1988)
I ask you to come back now as you were in youth,
Confident, eager, and the silver brushed from your temples.
Let it be as though a man could go backwards through death,
Erasing the years that did not much count,
Or that added up perhaps to no more than a single brilliant forenoon.
Sit with us. Let it be as it was in those days
When alchohol brought our tongues the first sweet foretaste of oblivion
And what should we speak of but verse? For who would speak of
such things now but among friends?
(A bad line, an atrocious line, could make you wince; we have all seen it.)
I see you again turn toward the cold and battering sea.
Gull shadows darken the skylight; a wind keens among the chimney pots,
Your hand trembles a little.
What year was that?
Correct me if I remember it badly,
But was there not a dream, sweet but also terrible,
In which Eurydice, strangely, preceded you?
And you followed, knowing exactly what to expect, and of course she
Come back now and help me with these verses.
Whisper to me some beautiful secret that you remember from life.