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Eulogy by Paul Guest

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I no longer remember why this poem mattered. I found it tonight written on a torn flyleaf. I keep thinking if I did that—rip out a page from a book, I mean. And if I did—what kind of person was I then, at that moment?

I suppose this is a clue: I’ve written in a small script, “and I’ll listen to you like a stethoscope.” It’s a mystery. This poem is a letter, but I’ve forgotten for whom.

Paul Guest

So that this will seem like words between
old friends, I’ll say it was painless.
And quick. I’ll say it was mercy
and behind my face where I put
things like The Truth and dreams about
supernovae, I’ll try to mean it.
But it was his time, we should all admit.
Shouldn’t we, who loved him
the way we love traffic
and cell phones during spectacular sex
and the degradations of puberty,
shouldn’t we all feel
as though light were swelling within us,
inflaming us? Tell me where
you were when you heard
but tell me later, much later,
the kind of later mathematicians get excited about.
By then memory will have torn
away from my body like a scab
I’ll no longer have to pick at
and I’ll listen to you like a stethoscope.
It will be good for my heart.
It will be good for your heart.
In the air of that deferred spring
we’ll be healthy, speaking
of an ancient wound neither of us
really remember, except
that by starlight we promised
to honor this question mark
in the periodic sentence of our lives.
Whatever you say, remember
that we cried. The dead love that we weep,
that we stain ourselves with
salt, that we become for a moment
indistinguishable from the sea,
that our shining faces rock with grief.

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