This is Stephen

by Peter Taylor


And if you had ceased that day
I would not have seen you
Here and understood
The intimate cynicism of the world.
 - Don Coles




We all end on a slab somewhere
open pages from Gray's Anatomy
smelling of ether and formaldehyde
the final invasion 
coming too late


your body 
did not wait
for surgeons and accidents


its pallid strength 
spiteful of itself
yet calm
in its resolution
to remain an enigma


a bruised print


Brother, where are you? 






changed you into ceremonies
kept the others sane


my heart
shrunk to a fist
with the slow agony
of recognition


the moment
I entered that room
until the moment
I exit this


my visitations


between earth 
which holds you
and thought 
in which you exist




Midnight faces 


the firemen I called
knowing they respond faster
helmets firecoats boots
hunched in that basement room


coroner in evening dress
a piece of confetti on his collar
squeezes in
one more body between 
cocktails and a nightcap


instructing the police
to drive my sister and I
over to tell your wife 
and children


we buy coffee and doughnuts on the way 




I think of dying every day


slow excretion of self 
endless form of heart
brain kidneys tiny
waiting to expose the film


I keep your pictures safe
from the infinite exposure 
of the sun


when I advance the roll
you disappear


last frame 
carrying your ashes 
in a box


how little is left




A cold grimace
all you left to the world
and what to me?


tongue swollen as scream
face a pale mask
my night constellation


hand stretches
to touch you 
across film across thought
tearing illusive
filaments of memory


language contaminates
as it creates
the flawed universe
we imagine and inhabit


turning the print
over and over
in my mind