Often as I sat with Nico in his final decline, I sensed that we were sitting on a bleak shore by a languid sea as bits of imagery, memories, phrases would bob in the waves.I tried to interest him in using these to write poems once again. He was uninterested, so I wrote the poems myself.
TWO POEMS FOR NICOLAS CALAS
No peace with that.
The habit of a thought
Arises in response
To an unmade bed;
Tea with a small amount of milk,
Husky Russian vowels amid the kitchen crockery.
The lure of tonalities rise
Like the memory of a white sky above a purple sea:
A breeze from the shore of the exile’s homeland
Where culture vanished long ago but remained
Enough to mirror, in a delicate and incisive way,
The great doings
Of brasher nations on the go.
Still a vague yearning for the atmosphere
Of a pale horizon poised on promise.
But seated in shadow on remembered subway steps
A charcoal-black man
Suggests the sultry wealth of Africa
And dark barbarian threat.
Again the familiar tickle of a riddle
Teasing to continue –
In the familiar and seductive texture
Of what can be said and still resists being known:
The tip of a tongue.
Desiring, at the wet tip of a tongue
To taste continuing desire,
So subtly to be loved.
In form that increasingly eludes
Like the pink opalescence
Shifting in a bank of clouds above the sea.
The skin of experience adheres
To the habits of mind
Knowing and being known:
Waves thus watch waves
Dancing light in light.
As a sparkling play
In a luminous sea that never was,
That was never known by anyone,
That never began,
Nor never ceased
Resting an exhausted mind
Love to you.
N.C. IN TRANSIT
For Madeline Gins and Arakawa
Or the memory of heroes
Befriends him waiting vainly to cease.
Dyed in the brittle multi-colors of this age
Not holding fast now, he swims upstream
Through the dark river of ancient ink
To the elusive instant of release
By way of remembering
As his own memories slide off
And elide with Homeric history
Falls then of its own luxurious waste
As off a high shelf
A bolt of night-black silk,
Rustling to the floor
In enveloping swirls.