Close Calls, and Even Closer Callings

Paul Strand: Mr Bennett, Vermont, 1944

Four decades ago — tentatively — he summoned me with his nineteen years.
Who was he to know? How vague the calibre of his yearning!
Yet “vague” here is just the right verve
in the beginning
for the future fortune-telling of a whole other life to come . . .
There are times, at fifty-nine
when I would gladly swap back to his shapeless vagabond longing,
vitaller than worldly wisdom’s common commonsense
and without misadventure’s ramshackled failings.
At the next death,
as I wend my way out of this breathtaking Earth,
perhaps his will be the image that comes bashfully towards me
in greeting — some level of touching distance in his face —
and, at the moment me meet,
in turn — together — we will conjure between us an unequivocal third,
the one that language can only gnash its syntactic teeth at grimly
and that makes rude, raucous angels and devils alike
hoot aloud out of heart- and head-felt GLEE.

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