In the days before, when you were you, alive, and I had not become me,
you were the refined uncle of books, delicately sculpted, razor-tongued.
Many years escaped before I knew what no one ever said. Of course,
there were clues. Brief visits. Decorous tables. San Francisco. A photograph taken
at Fire Island. Decanters and goblets. A satin robe. Opera. Your hands
said more than your words. You are dead three years now, and I have yet to write your book. Questions plague my house. Didn't you witness enough of yourself in my being? I mean,
I don't know what I mean. Genealogy, genetics. Theories fall apart. The world is flat,
it has an edge. I saw you today. Not you, but one that could have been you. A Hindu man,
beautiful. Coal skin. Impeccably dressed. Impatient with the sun. He was carrying
an umbrella. Intimations of the body: horse, crystal, rock, powder. A bitch's brew to medicate
joy against pain. The pen will not behave, the paper is in revolt. For you,
drugs, religion, home became. Ritual, symbol, myth. Your death, a heart
attack, surprised no one. Anachronisms rarely walk the earth unscathed. AIDS
is the word my family does not say. Your car in the driveway. The driver's door
open. One foot upon the pavement. Hands upon the wheel. Still life. This is how
you were posed. The last time I saw you, you asked for a book of poems, Rita Dove's
Mother Love, I did not send it in time. I hope this will do.