Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 14, 2013

This is my first day
outliving my father.
His birth and death,
August 25, 1921 – December 13, 1987.

Twenty-six years to the day after
his birth, my own August 25 came
along. Now, 26 years and a day
after his dying, I am still alive.

Once, I wrote about
setting out to steal
lines of poems from others
with intent to build my own,

never knowing from where or who
the thought had come, but now,
this December 14,
I’d steal or borrow

from the lives of others
to become the man
I think it best I be
and make monument

to the man I yet bring with me.
I would be part Dr. King, Jr.
tracing with my fingertips
the great moral arc under which we live.

Bernie would approve. And agree
I should be part brave Ulysses,
fated to be plaything of the gods,
and part Atticus Finch,

tender-hearted truthspeaker,
part Lord Byron, poet
and wanton and nova and young;
part girl or woman,

Katniss, perhaps, or Anne Frank,
or Ella Fitzgerald with her
very big voice.
I would be part an old gray beard,

a Timuel Black, tested
in struggle and in life,
opening the way
for myself reimagined,

young and anonymous,
a socialist in the 21st century,
dreaming egalitarian dreams.
And in me, also

a bit of Bernie,
but not his hubris or his daring,
none of his wish to be
the starlight in our eyes.

That wish might have been decisive for Bernie,
but it was not the most fundamental feature
of the man. No, I’ll not borrow
his hubris or his daring. I have my own.

I’ll not need his corruptible core,
the fatal flaw that caused him to defend
“Epton, before it’s too late,”
as though it might not message

that Harold Washington, you know,
was black, with all that might mean
to white Chicago voters in 1983.
No, I have my own corruptible core.

I have no need of his.
But this I would take:
access to the inexhaustible
spring of loyalty, of enduring affection,

the pool of love
in which he swam a life.
I remember Bernie was a man who kissed men.
And he was the man who kissed me best.

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