Yet More Poems for Arjen

“Be Night”

Because the light in the sky sparkles with laughter,
it is impossible that you are dead.
Yet you’re more Democritus than Aristotle,
and would laugh just as brightly after
I said “red sky at morning, sailors take warning;
red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”
Be night, be night, be night.
Do not be the red sky of death over
a frozen body floating without breath.

It is quite impossible, although men fall,
that you should have paddled down a fjord
toward an Arctic sea and then toward
the bottom, a rush of water and all
the heaviness of life, the freezing pull,
the heft of a forced salt mouthful
too many and too fast
for even you to last.
Do not make your home in the sea
when you know your home is here with me.

Will you make your place
here in the new space
between knowing and not knowing
if you’re coming or going,
went well or badly,
died for helping dissidents tell the truth,
or slipped away to secretly relive some youth?
Delighting in travel, accounting for nothing to no one,
but still helping others in need on the rocky sea
when you stumble across each other having lost and won,
like I helped you and you helped me?

Do not tell me if you fought and lost,
if you were frightened or forced to pay the ultimate cost.
Because you’re in the light, so you’re with me in the day—
laughing, one, making fun.
But I still hope you’re the night, anyway.
Safe and warm, with someplace to stay,
having decided to rest and stay away.
Tell me, someday, if you can, how to help you there.
You know we can sit in stillness if you tell me where.

***

“Silver Tarp”

When we first heard you were missing, I lit a candle like we used to do,
and prayed and tried to talk to you. In my daydream that sleepless night,
you comforted me. You were resting, you said, on a soft bed
under a starry sky beneath a shimmering silver tarp.

And I thought leaves, thought we’d find you
half-buried with late summer silver and green
and a sharp hiking stick or something metal jutting up
shining through some non-lethal muck,
but surely with two simply broken legs and only just out of water.
Then they said you had bought a folding kayak.
Later a fisherman found your things just out to sea.

But now I think the shimmering silver tarp with which you comforted me,
its warm blanket enveloping your warm embrace and steady face
when I cried out shaking your shoulder to know where you were and come,
must be not water and its grave.
Must be only time rippling over,
time that shines warm even in Nordic nights,
time that you will take to come clearer,
to fight and fly through some awful danger, cold as death,
and finally then come nearer again to the friends
who would have wanted to get you warm and dry
if ever you should have fallen.
We believe in you.

***

“Limits”

You are not allowed to die.
You are just too good a guy.

 

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