We mourn his passing:
Nice obit. Thanks for calling our attention to it.
Variations on a Text by Vallejo
Me moriré en París con aguacero...
I will die in Miami in the sun,
On a day when the sun is very bright,
A day like the days I remember, a day like other days,
A day that nobody knows or remembers yet,
And the sun will be bright then on the dark glasses of strangers
And in the eyes of a few friends from my childhood
And of the surviving cousins by the graveside,
While the diggers, standing apart, in the still shade of the palms,
Rest on their shovels, and smoke,
Speaking in Spanish softly, out of respect.
I think it will be on a Sunday like today,
Except that the sun will be out, the rain will have stopped,
And the wind that today made all the little shrubs kneel down;
And I think it will be a Sunday because today,
When I took out this paper and began to write,
Never before had anything looked so blank,
My life, these words, the paper, the grey Sunday;
And my dog, quivering under a table because of the storm,
Looked up at me, not understanding,
And my son read on without speaking, and my wife slept.
Donald Justice is dead. One Sunday the sun came out,
It shone on the bay, it shone on the white buildings,
The cars moved down the street slowly as always, so many,
Some with their headlights on in spite of the sun,
And after a while the diggers with their shovels
Walked back to the graveside through the sunlight,
And one of them put his blade into the earth
To lift a few clods of dirt, the black marl of Miami,
And scattered the dirt, and spat,
Turning away abruptly, out of respect.
Here is a poem he wrote for his mother. It will do for him, now:
Psalm and Lament
In memory of my mother (1897-1974)
The clocks are sorry, the clocks are very sad.
One stops, one goes on striking the wrong hours.
And the grass burns terribly in the sun,
The grass turns yellow secretly at the roots.
Now suddenly the yard chairs look empty, the sky looks empty,
The sky looks vast and empty.
Out on Red Road the traffic continues; everything continues.
Nor does memory sleep; it goes on.
Out spring the butterflies of recollection,
And I think that for the first time I understand
The beautiful ordinary light of this patio
And even perhaps the dark rich earth of a heart.
(The bedclothes, they say, had been pulled down.
I will not describe it. I do not want to describe it.
No, but the sheets were drenched and twisted.
They were the very handkerchiefs of grief.)
Let summer come now with its schoolboy trumpets and fountains.
But the years are gone, the years are finally over.
And there is only
This long desolation of flower-bordered sidewalks
That runs to the corner, turns, and goes on,
That disappears and goes on
Into the black oblivion of a neighborhood and a world
Without billboards or yesterdays.
Sometimes a sad moon comes and waters the roof tiles.
But the years are gone. There are no more years.
Thanks, Ilza and Stephen. What marvellous poems.
Me too, I had picked up the newly published Selected Poems just a week before his death. I liked a good deal more of his work than I do most contemporaries.
Within a week Milosz, too, was dead and I mourn his passing equally.
My Lord, I loved strawberry jam
And the dark sweetness of a woman's body.
Also, well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,
Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.
So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit
Have visited such a man? Many others
Were justly called, and trustworthy.
Who would have trusted me? For they saw
How I empty glasses, throw myself on food,
And glance greedily at the waitress's neck.
Flawed and aware of it. Desiring greatness,
Able to recognize greatness wherever it is,
And yet not quite, only in part, clairvoyant,
I know what was left for smaller men like me:
A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud.
A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.
translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass