There is something to be said
for being a renter,
of watching over a place
without the obligation
to improve it.

The Native Americans
made it a practice
to leave little trace of themselves
on the landscape.

Few of us can bear
to travel so lightly.
Yet this is our condition:
to occupy this life,
knowing we will be
parted from it,
but not when.

At sunset my shadow stretches
over the sea as I ease myself in
for the last swim of summer.
For thirty years I’ve immersed
in the cold waters of this cove
and felt cradled by sea and sky.
In their ever-changing immensities
I sense the unpossessable sublime.

I sink my restless thoughts to silence
so I may cleave to my true purpose.

Tethered, words enter the mind
through the eye or the ear,
to make of themselves
the weightless structure
apprehended wholly or in part,
like a shape shifting in the mist,
reverberant as a song,
to be taken up or forgotten,
like spent desire, or sunlight
shining on water, a fading reflection.


He was not good or kind,
but he was memorable.
He was the Poet,
and we the disciples
each week seeking
the benefit of his insight
as we sat around the table
listening politely
while he free-associated,
his random thoughts
drifting into aperçus
delivered in a high-pitched
nasal voice, the ash
hanging off his cigarette
until it dropped by itself.

At the interview
for admission to the class
I was in awe of him.
“These are yours?” he asked,
indicating my Fogg Poems.
In suspense I assented.
“Not bad,” he continued,
and paused. “But there are
so many of them.”
He sighed, leafing
through the seven pages
as if they constituted a burden.
“You’re in the class,” he said,
handing them back to me.

Believing he must be right,
I let him influence me.
From that day on
I dared not add another poem,
though possibilities still
occurred to me,
I ignored my ideas
until they went away.
At the time I didn’t know
he was writing his own series
of loosely-titled sonnets
hundreds of them
he would publish
in multiple versions
under two titles.


As winter melted into spring,
his mind grew unhinged.
One afternoon in class,
hearing workmen
making a racket
in the room below us,
he flew into a rage
and shouted at them
through the ceiling,
banging his chair
on the floor in retaliation.

Another time I saw him
shuffling across Mass. Ave.
in bedroom slippers
looking lost and dazed.

At his poetry reading at The Advocate,
he could barely speak.
The week before his collapse
he put aside student work
and, ignoring us,
closed his eyes and intoned,
“A bracelet of hair about the bone.”

“A bracelet of hair about the bone,”
he uttered the line again
and again, in a trance,
his voice growing fainter
until at last he grew silent.

We fled, leaving him
clutching his dead cigarette,
the ash scattered on the table,
staring into nothing.