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What He Knew
_____ for David

::
Before Alzheimer’s

and during it when he spoke in stray words
or in sounds

he sometimes moved his hands
like birds
_____ in flight…

so that, watching his hands
punctuate the air

I’d ask myself

Am I watching birds disappear? Or a flower, opening?

 

::
“If we can say that language is the house of being,”
a friend begins…

And because I don’t know
I enter
_____ quietly

the house
each word is, looking for

the word inside the word

its sequestered
essence…

Inside beatitude
                             be

Inside bless
________
less

::
Be less

And if illness is a spiritual path, he surrendered
loss by loss
________ word by word

what he’d learned to construct, what he’d learned
to imagine
as a self…

Does he still know you?
________________
People liked to ask that question

::
There’s a law in physics that says
Nothing is lost

The spiritual law that may correspond
is this—
_______ Not until everything is taken
_______
or surrendered

will we find out what remains…

::
I remember, late in the illness
he saw

geese flying low along a river
and moved his arms

_______________ as they their wings

his body
an inaudible shapeliness, his mind perhaps a mirror…

Another way to say it, he was
word
_____ made flesh…

::
A book falls open to these words—

Ultimate meaning is not a matter of language at all…. in the Zen notion, words trace the ultimate as a flight of birds traces their course through the air….

That is, one might, if anything
say, Ah!
_______
a form of saying nothing

as bird cloud flight wing skein air
intermingle

even as they shine alone…

::
Inside notion
__________
no

Inside negate
__________
gate

Inside silence
__________
a lens

::
In the nursing home one morning, doing nothing
waiting

_______ as sun turned the table gold

we were looking at the moth orchid on that table…

how its shadow-flower made a rounded
pair of wings…
___________ we were studying

revelation by shadow, or I was—

when he reached for my hand and out of nowhere
fully awake and smiling

a nature ripened and innate
said

I’m sorry I said that to you

And although I had no way of knowing what he referred to
he knew…
__________ and so I let

the moment be the golden flower
our lives
already are
________ even when we are immersed in shadow…

It’s okay, I said, and we kissed
a moth’s kiss, light…
_______________ and the moment folded its wings

and settled into being


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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