for Mark Steinbeck
Mark, sorry I didn't want to see The Louvre.
At 17, What did I know of painting?
40 miles inland, over the fireplace
we had a Robert Wood seascape,
moon through clouds doubled off a wave regressing,
the beach now gray glow and hush
while outdoors the orange groves took the beating sun,
Santa Anas, late April frosts. Art was a kind of denial.
You knew so much from books. You turned last pages,
shut them and went into the world with educated momentum.
I tried to catch up to your Thompson with my Huxley,
you in Escondido, me in Northridge
That acid we dropped in Chapman
fell a long way. The cello played "When You Wish
Upon a Star" just blocks from The Happiest Place on
Earth. I couldn't believe our luck then, so
now that it's run out, I'm not surprised.
Still I go around saying your name.
Forgive me for calling you back from the paradise.
When Dorothy scattered your ashes from the stern,
I saw the gray flash green and recognized it:
our afternoon off Ensenada Grande, the late sun off the
sandy bottom. I call your name not in denial of death,
not to fill the empty spaces (there's no such music);
you are not alive on my breath,
just ahead of me.
So when I saw The Louvre,
it was too late to tell you about it. Now I know,
friendship is about going when your friend says, "let's."
For everything we saw in the same space and light,
I say your name and am blessed as so much memory
regresses, how the images emerge from utterances
letters at a time, the space between two words,
never a full sentence, and no full epistle,
but the kind of denial I keep in the center of home