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Jonathan Williams Feature

Thomas Meyer


With a Foreword by Robert Kelly

Speaking to Thomas Meyer's Kintsugi

In that sad and famous way in which every photograph is, whatever else it is, somehow also about pastness—itself the quality that Wittgenstein felt epitomized by a certain passage, “As if from far away,” in Schumann’s Dances for the David Brotherhood—in some kindred way we can and perhaps should read every poem as an elegy.

In Homer grieving for the men of old who mourned for Linos, in Virgil’s meaty grieving for the very substance or flesh he gazed at, fleeting as its perception, we read that sorrow which is the true ground of language. It is the reference that language, in its essence and by its presumed first purpose, makes to what is not here. Every object or relationship or feeling, ill-roused from its sleep by words, soon slips back into lostness, pastness, leaving the same sort of aftertaste that music does.

I don’t think I ever felt this more keenly than when I read Tom Meyer’s elegy for Jonathan, a text written in and through the very death it mourned—like a parallel text to that dying. The ancients used to speak of one who is in the very act of dying as being in articulo mortis, the limb of it, in the nick of death.

Tom calls the forty-eight threnodic pulses of his observation of Jonathan’s dying, his own surviving, by a curious Japanese word, kintsugi, which he describes as the “practice of repairing ceramics with gold-laced lacquer to illuminate the breakage.” So the very rupture is what is highlighted: the error becomes the meaning of the text. Tom’s presence to the dying and the death and the after is the golden line that holds all this together. His love that is so worn and deep and thorough that it does not need to speak its usual endearments. When we are that close, so close that the whole of one’s attention is given to that person who is going away, love means little more than paying attention. In a strange, almost selfish way, the reader (or this reader) feels embraced too a little in the amative circle of that attention, his own secret breaks and fissures healed by these lines sung at right angles to us, and straight at the dying man.

—Robert Kelly

Japanese practice of repairing ceramics with gold laced lacquer to illuminate the breakage

All dogs bark his name.
He who has gone

there from here
past time’s gap. Jumped.

Do we come back in our fathers’ blood?
What happened a year ago gets pierced by today?

Where did I leave that book? In the car.
Those uncertain seconds are everything

when I can’t put my hand on it
whatever it is. Or wherever.

A new moon. What is not there felt for.
In the dark. Get up, go out to the car.

Set the chair at the table and put
the loaf right there. No knife. Tear it.

Sit. Write. I drift. Books. In black and white
the honey here of a difficult pattern not
to shy from or even follow but let stand
until it sticks. Is that all there is? Some
lines going where.

A place the tongue finds. An afternoon.
Tasted. Said. All the world Maya

while here we are to wonder: Is this seen?
Or heard. Herd. Scene.

At the frilly edges of thinking. Such.

Sit so you don’t hurt the grass.
An impossible grace

everyday we
fall from.

To sit while outside a light but steady rain falls
while someone walks into the room
though he’s not there if I look up. I won’t.

What a luxury this loneliness is.
To sit in the sun on that flat spot
up behind the house
where the bloodroot still hasn’t come
to tell me you are gone.

Once a river only a shudder
of sunlight and water is left

and a complete blank
when it comes to deserts.

Drought I’ve seen though
how the sight of no rain

looks remains, not a mystery,
but another cul-de-sac

talking about it leads us

That shelter included shadow, surprises.
But why? Hidden under a bushel basket.
Stood in front of. Protection.

Each hand cupped and whatever it is
that needs this care slips like water
through the fingers but remains refreshment.

The key is here but not the room number.
Does that mean try all the locks?

Or wait? For what? I’m sure any angel
would agree: Who wants in when the time comes?
Not the time, but Time. Who, just who.

In a pool beside the sycamore
we see who hides in that tree

with a hand to cup cold water.
Who will come down when?

Careful of the stars when you pass
through the cloud. At the edge of town

I’m standing there. Then look up. See
you and me on a sled

in each other’s arms sliding down
a slope. New snow.

What disturbs the air? Strikes the note
and breaks the cord? A match
struck in the dark, after it goes out,
after a few minutes the eye can see
full well.

You whom I never dream of I dream of
your tender final sleep
and think of
those kids lost in the woods
praying to a sonnet of angels
to protect them:

Go, my envoy, into
the month spring comes.

Gathered up and let go. Honeysuckle, wisteria.
A river of stars. Hold my hand.

Startled rust, black and white towhee on the gravel.
Slow long cool spring. Red fox

carries the gingerbread boy across the river. Run
for your life. Run.

My feet almost not there in the wet grass.
An evening, not cold yet spring.

It has come this.
My sitting here writing this
beside your sleep.

Pindar had it right:
Sing for those

who hear the song
and they ...

Last. Their souls

asleep, limbs

A thief in the night. Did I say that already?
But isn’t everything in the dark stolen?
Day’s other half the great burglar
of all we hold on to then let go of.

Gap you could drive a Mack truck through
or the whole vernacular.

Then what’s left?
Apart from a personal indifference to pronouns.

All my life I’ve been waiting for something
and now here it is. Unapparent

like a wood in Germany. Not fog but a mist
for a moment obscures you.

An empty pair of shoes out in the middle of the room.
The thing about waiting. Take away anticipation
and that’s all there is. Those words from Latin
“I” tries to avoid. A lesson I can’t or it won’t be

Talk with us. We too fear both fire and time
certain they are the same. What is left
when they are done? What is left to do
but move to Spain and live there life’s cruelty.

Walk into a room.
Not know where I am.
Once it was Love
had me so distracted.
Now it’s Death.

It won’t be hours until this happens
what took seconds to transpire.

Moments in each other’s arms
when time is a toy. Something simple.

Winds up. Runs down. Clatters.

The story itself isn’t remarkable
though not all that believable:

a young man, apparently the gardener,
who tells the women to do something

they don’t and then they ran away afraid.

It hardly matters. I’ve probably already heard it.
Or never will. Anticipation is the—what to call it?
Not the “answer,” really.

There is a music
I’ve been waiting for
I want to say
all my life.

Some vast Russian novel in which I am packing
and unpacking belongings. Mine? I own? My Hindu friends
tell me I’m part of a long line of warriors but
in this life a writer under Sarasvati’s blessing.

Flesh and grass. Brahms Requiem.
The women weep over the last lines.
The ones not written yet.

They carry a child.

Forty-some years ago
he would’ve been the Aeon. Today
he sells cars south of Chicago.

I often mistake the watering can for the cat.
For that matter any flux of shadow
seems to be him coming to find me.

“In the middle of the floor,” I wanted to say.
Or meant, but it was an emptiness that swept
away that ground to include what else?
Windows? Chairs? A table. A “where,”
and a “we are..”

Who must dream the dream
before we can dance it?
Honey in the difficult
pattern of dark and light.

That world we see
is music, music in a dream then.

It moves. Red sun. Green field.
Black angus. Tree above.

Rain. Or night.
Ever careful of the stars.

Yellow river. In a distant haze klezmer music.
On those banks pamplemouse was invented.

No time for Chinese philosophy. One foot
in front of another. “Not being there.”

For that they drew a branch to show
the bird had flown.

Put the ending on the table.
Better yet, in the drawer.

Forget beginning and middle.
They are lies. Neither has been

nor ever was. Where were they?
This is the happiness that wipes

the face clean and puts a smile
on it. Stars in your eyes.

Napoleon’s men didn’t want to
(or couldn’t) restore the rose’s petals
to the diadem of its stem.

Forever water falls. An ankle held between neck and shoulder.
Completely but easily. Someone walking in the hallway.
Morning details swept up. A damp sheet pulled out from under a hip.
Something. Or rather some place. Fingers discover.

Not quietude, but reticence. What does that mean? A net?
A tacit agreement. Again. Not saying. Not saying. Again.

A car though the leaves barely seen
except for sunlight on a wet

A fight to get rid of “like.” Not even
“A car ...” Movement. Something.

Then something else steps in:
“though the leaves barely seen

For me the hardest and last things to do
have been the least.

To pick up your glasses and know
you will never look through them again.

La vita nuova. Where does it end.
Or begin when. The rain and wind were
only mice in the ceiling. Mice

in the silence. Lips parted, slight arch
of tongue. A bit of air.

There was a book there before I nodded off
my hand can’t find nor is there enough light
to see just where I am. A place I know I knew
yet can’t quite place right now.

The curtain lifts and the dead enter
while the living exit. This is what the world is.
A hand held out amidst noise and dust
whose touch is a wide-eyed lifetime.

No end to what is, and not water
or whatever else we know as stuff

all that comes from this. While everything
so to speak that comes also goes away

is gone

Damp sheet pulled out from under a hip.
Moon light, so much, not full, a quarter.
My hand in front of my face. Where to go?

In this room the sound of water, of breath.

In this dream you are you twenty years ago
getting up to pay for lunch

and I am me now thinking “My god,
what have I done?”

you will die in a day or two.

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