you and I :: stanley moss

You are Jehovah, and I am a wanderer.
Who should have mercy on a wanderer
if not Jehovah? You create and I decay.
Who should have mercy on the decayed
if not the creator? You are the Judge
and I the guilty Who should have mercy
on the guilty if not the Judge? You are All
and I am a particle. Who should have mercy
on a particle if not the All?
You are the Living One and I am dead.
Who should have mercy on the dead if not
the Living One? You are the Painter and Potter
and I am clay. Who should have mercy on clay
if not the Painter and Potter? You are the Fire
and I am straw Who should have mercy on straw
if not the Fire? You are the Listener
and I am the reader. Who should have mercy
on the reader if not the Listener? You
are the Beginning and I am what follows.
Who should have mercy on what follows
if not the Beginning? You are the End and I am
what follows. Who should have mercy
on what follows if not the End?

bright day :: stanley moss

I sing this morning: Hello, hello.
I proclaim the bright day of the soul.
The sun is a good fellow,
the devil is a good guy, no deaths today I know.
I live because I live. I do not die because I cannot die.
In Tuscan sunlight Masaccio
painted his belief that St. Peter’s shadow
cured a cripple, gave him back his sight.
I’ve come through eighty-five summers. I walk in sunlight.
In my garden, death questions every root, flowers reply.
I know the dark night of the soul
does not need God’s eye,
as a beggar does not need a hand or a bowl.

poets at lunch :: stanley moss

          to W.S. Merwin

I said, “Nothing for the last time.”
You said, “Everything for the last time.”
Later I thought you made everything more
precious with “everything for the last time”:
the last meditation, the last falling asleep,
the last dream before the final makebelieve,
the last kiss good night,
the last look out the window at the last moonlight.
Last leaves no time to hesitate.
I would drink strong coffee before my last sleep.
I’d rather remember childhood, rehearse forgiveness,
listen to birdsong or a Spanish housemaid singing,
scrubbing a tiled floor in Seville—
I’d scrub and sing myself. O Susanna
Susanna, quanta pena mi costi.

I would strangle the snakes of lastness
like Herakles in his crib
before I cocked my ear to Mozart for the last time.
There is not sky or clouds enough to cover
the music I would hear for the last time.
I know a bank whereon the wild thyme of
everything for the last time grows, covered with
deadly nightshade and poison hemlock.

No last, no first, thinking in the moment,
years ago, you prepared the soil in Hawaii
before you planted your palm trees, then shared
most of your days and nights with them as equals.
You built your house with a Zen room.
I made no prayer when I dug a hole
and pushed in a twelve-foot white pine,
root ball locked in green plastic netting.
I did not cut the netting, so twenty years later
a tall, beautiful, white pine died.
I lynched the roots. To save my life
I would let them seize, cut out a bear’s heart,
I would partake in its flesh.
But you would die before you’d let them kill that bear.
Again, I say, “Nothing for the last time.”
You say, “Everything for the last time.”
Sailor, I would have killed a stranger
to save the world. Sailor, you would not.
We kissed goodbye on the cheek.
I hope not for the last time.

Home, I look into my brass telescope—
at the far end, where the moon and distant stars
should be, I see my eye looking back at me,
it’s twinkling and winking like a star. I go to bed.
My dogs, donkeys and wife are sleeping. I am safe.
You are home with your wife
you met and decided to marry in four days.