Playing The Blues

Painting by Lenore Conacher

is to find pleasure in postponing
happiness awhile, letting the lights
dim, and go to those rivers
you have drowned in before
where lament, bronzed with
longing, hovers in the air,
and fill your lungs with it.

Melancholy is gorgeous when
it’s not just yours: no grape
more often crushed
for its fabulous blue note,
no glass emptied as slowly,
the bubble-burst of sorrow
like champagne on the lips,

no melody more played,
strung, as it is, like a bridge
you can cross now—
weep of the guitar,
moan of the sexy saxophone:
all that was,
and all that might have been.

I had the concept of “saudade” on the brain this morning, probably because of Ada Limon’s introduction to today’s poem on The Slowdown. My poem was written quite some time ago and was inspired by a painting by local artist Lenore Conacher.

Guy Climbs Mount Lafayette Feb. 6, 2000

franconianotchmap

Unlike other guys
who reach a mountaintop and leave with it, move it
under the hut of the body
so they can breathe its rare air at will,
see themselves later through anything,

Guy Waterman got stuck on one craggy point
that jagged heaven: it put the bit in his mouth
he could speak to God only there,
called it his kind of prayer. And so his rosary
of left foot, right foot began, decades
of climbing the same mountain, breaking
out of the fog and cloud into a brilliance
of mind and sky. Each time harder to take
lucky boots and crampons off, wear ordinary
shoes: where they tread, a son leaves, is
never seen or heard from again; others die.

Each son lost thickening the Gordian
knot of unspeakable sorrow. How possibly
deter him from wanting to freeze in time
a transcendent moment of no return?
Love stayed his wife: at home, knowing.
Praying for a below zero night. And so
he stepped onto the Old Bridle Path,
nodding his last hello at Agony Ridge,
a few hikers headed down before the sun set.
Had a canteen half-water, half-alcohol.
Had a wind that took his breath away.

Not turning back, instead turning his back
on this world, he struck his father’s
wooden alpenstock into the ice five feet
off the trail and curled up beside it,
placing a period where the small comma
of his body would be seen. Three days passed
before friends muscled him down on a stretcher
for what felt like forever. Finally was.

This poem was a finalist in IthacaLit’s 2015 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Contest and is included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase through Finishing Line Press here  or Amazon hereI came across the story of Guy Waterman’s life accidentally and was moved to write this poem; he was an accomplished author with a complicated life. For those interested, here’s a link to his story: A Natural Death