The manner of your leaving
By John Dennison
So much is known, and is beyond us still:
leave we must, beloved, until
we are gone from here, and the tree hangs
its empty nests for longer than it takes
to fill them, the dusk empty of birdsong
and the city committed to the ground of its unforgetting.
We cannot say how, so that some
are gone already, beloved, even one
I played with as a boy, a man I loved
in my unthinking way; I admired
his skill, overlooked too much his gentleness.
And these memories (this poem, dear reader!) also
must take their leave, be left by the minds
that cling to them unrelieved; but exactly how,
in what sheet-winding procedure,
body and spirit come unstuck
is too much for simple time to reveal,
except in the unsticking, the winding. Dust
is a dead metaphor; and the theme repeats
its variations, of which this is one: what suspense
remains is the manner of your leaving—is that it?
That is not it. And we don’t have a choice
in the matter! When all is said and done,
stand weeping outside the tomb,
beside the rolling stone, see
the God-forsaken winding sheets,
in the manner of your leaving.