for Antonio Machado
This rain has stopped, and the moon has come out.
I don’t understand the first thing about radio
waves. But I think they travel better just after
a rain, when the air is damp. Anyway, I can reach out
now and pick up Ottawa, if I want, or Toronto.
Lately, at night, I’ve found myself
becoming slightly interested in Canadian politics
and domestic affairs. But mostly it was their music
stations I was after. I could sit here in the chair
and listen, without having to do anything, or think.
I don’t have a TV, and I’d quit reading
newspapers. At night I turned on the radio.
When I came out here I was trying to absent myself
from everything. Especially literature.
What that entails, and what comes after.
There is in the soul a desire for not thinking.
For being still. Coupled with this
a desire to be strict, yes, and rigorous.
But the soul is also a smooth son of a bitch,
not always to be trusted. And I forgot that.
I listened when it said, Better to sing that which is gone
and will not return than that which is still
with us and will be with us tomorrow. Or not.
And if not, that’s all right too.
It didn’t much matter, it said, even if a man sang.
That’s the voice I listened to.
Can you imagine somebody thinking like this?
That it’s really all one and the same?
But I’d think these stupid thoughts at night
as I sat in the chair and listened to my radio.
Then, Machado, the advent of your poetry in my life!
It was a little like a middle-aged man falling
in love again. A remarkable thing to witness, perhaps,
but embarrassing, too.
Silly things like putting your picture up.
And I took your book to bed with me
and slept with it near at hand. A train went by
in my dreams one night and woke me up.
And the first thing I thought, heart racing
there in the dark bedroom, was this—
It’s all right, Machado is here.
Then I could fall back to sleep again.
Today I took your book with me when I went
for my walk. “Pay attention!” you said,
when anyone asked what to do with their lives.
So I looked around and made note of everything.
Then sat down with your book in the sun, in my place
beside the river where I could see the mountains.
And I closed my eyes and listened to the sound
of the water. Then I opened them and began to read
“Abel Martin’s Last Lamentations.”
This morning I thought about you hard, Machado.
And I hope, even in the face of what I know about death,
that you got the message I intended.
But it’s okay even if you didn’t. Sleep well. Rest.
Sooner or later I hope we’ll meet.
And then I can tell you these things myself.