A Letter from Key West
To My Friend David,
In Memory of his Sister,
The southernmost sky is strange at ten at night,
Still mildly blue with midday clouds and a calm
Wind that lifts the clouds to show a star dead white,
Dead white and barely there above a palm's black head.
The three macaws who shriek behind the palms have gone to bed
And all the traffic in the tropics pauses for the moon.
Your sister, you said last week, will be dead soon.
So, tonight, a queer evening on Bone Key
This is a world unwilling to dim its light.
A gray deck shines at my feet,
The swimming pool’s electric blue.
The palms shake out their canopies
And their understories.
In the way of the last Key, with its late night heat,
Its sweet gardenias, and the night blooming jasmines
Glimmering under still-white clouds.
The dying coral, the marl's clay,
The bones of the dead that named the place Bone Key --
Consider these at noon, when the passion flower is red.
Consider these at ten, by the gulf and the sea.
Consider where the cancer spread.
“It’s in her spine,” you said.
That was June. And I said,
“What was the word they used?
“That was ages ago.”
The canopy and the understory, the overarching line
And the trace of something deeper…
The delicacy I saw first in her baby pictures
(You showed them to me in Bethesda in 1969.) –
Your pale soft preoccupied-with-a-doll sister.
A piece of paper on the wall of her teenage room
Inked with the beginning of one of her poems:
O little Norwegian city and town!
Beauty, absurdity, and yearning all woven
Into her, her language, her infantile maturity.
The darkly flowing understory that she lifted,
Maternal, into her palms - the masturbating girl,
Fat art and thin art, the closet's episteme –
All of that is lighter now, as light as this queer evening.