Dancing with the Doe West End Press, 1992

Joel Oppenheimer, 1930-1988

The strong wife of my firstborn’s father
calls to tell us it’s time.
Tomorrow or the next day
a week at most.
He talks and is not in pain,
has prepared well to die.
And you? I ask.
There’s no preparing . . .
I search for words.
Come on, you’re the poet,
she challenges my craft, laughs.
Tears gripping this wire
between women who have never met.
The children’s visit meant so much,
tell them they’re stuck with me...
Her voice is warm
from New Hampshire’s first signs of winter.
Here, on this autumn desert
feathery apache plume and flowering sage
it is almost dusk.
Two a.m. in Paris
where my son picks up the phone.
I have moved through my tears,
relay the message.
Time zones and languages contract, expand,
replay the shared granddaughter
just now completing
the cycle of her first year.
We are poets who walked briefly
in each other’s lives,
grow old in New Hampshire, New Mexico,
our children and their children
testing the words we leave behind.
May the words grow with them, Joel,
and keep on singing,
crossing the time zones
powerful against corrupt statistics,
beaten babies, lies
that fake this rallying beat of truth.
No one is fooled.
Death only lives
when the language of life is gone.