Spiritus Mundi (Slouching Towards Pakistan)

(for Keith)

I got the call at two o’clock.
By four, I was at home, unable
to decipher your words, or their meaning.
I do this to myself; I give myself permission
to read between the lines, to glean significance
from a post-script, or an ellipsis.

“Friends are interesting.”

In hindsight, there was a tautness, an unwillingness to yield
to the ease with which we once conversed.
In hindsight, I think you maybe wanted to tell me more
than what you were telling, to scrape past the niceties
that you have to offer first when you haven’t spoken in years,
to get at the marrow of the thing.
But then I’m perhaps again projecting.
Perhaps you had nothing to tell me.

I seldom agreed with you, any more than I’d agree
with Objectivism, or with Yankees fans. And yet with you
I laughed harder than with anyone. That laughter
is like gauze now, tied tight around a cut.
The memories throb, wake me up at three in the morning, three years later.

In waking hours I strain and grab at them, trying
to hear your voice, to remember the bristle of grey
at your temples even at eighteen.
I got – we all got – a chintz-stuffed room, cloying lily odor and a closed casket
when it should have been something fried and shared over inappropriate banter.
“Should have” is worse than “could have,” but not by much.

“Friends are interesting.”

I don’t think I ever responded to that. Yes. They are.

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