another pair of wings for my coatstand

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He had a sticker on his bakkie, “drugs are for people who can’t handle reality,” because he couldn’t.

The phone rang and a voice I wasn’t sure of, said a name I use for someone else. I was shocked at the news, whoever owned it, and when it became clear, the shock was harder, sharper. My soul went back, two decades almost exactly. I lived in a room with little in it, he sang when he walked up the stairs towards it. My friend, my heart’s friend, the angel with broken wings. We walked hand in hand and gave plants new names and we shared the moon. On a whim, we would go from the town to the city, to a walled place with guns waiting. The journey was so much slower on the way back, and so much faster too. We were blood brothers, we were safe.

It rained all night last night, all day today and it’ll rain all night tonight. Tears first, fast, then the dull daze of shock returning. My broken man with the name of an angel, Yagharek’s wingless, scarred spine. The man with secrets and sorrows, the man who died alone. I’ll grieve him hard as mountains, desolate. Two decades claw at my neck, hunting the jugular, tearing holes in the sky.

Darling, darling broken angel, dead before he died. I won’t forget your smile, or your hand in mine.

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Nothing But Death  (Pablo Neruda)

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

Translated by Robert Bly

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