A half-life can be deepend by the whole

The prolific and acclaimed Henri Cole (1956-) is yet another poet I’ve only recently encountered whose work I can’t wait to further explore.

“A Half-Life”

There is no sun today,
save the finch’s yellow breast,
and the world seems faultless in spite of it.
Across the sound, a continuous
ectoplasm of gray,
a ferry slits the deep waters,

bumping our little motorboats
against their pier.
The day ends like any day,
with its hour of human change
lifting even the chloreic heart.
If living in someone else’s dream

makes us soft, then I am so,
spilling out from the lungs
like green phlegm of spring.
My friend resting on the daybed
fills his heart with memory,
as July’s faithful swallows

weave figure eights above him,
vaulting with pointed wings and forked tails
for the ripe cherries he tosses them,
then ascending in a frolic
of fanned umbrella-feathers
to thread a far, airy steeple.

To my mind, the cherries form an endless
necklace-like cortex rising out
of my friend’s brain, the swallows
unraveling the cerebellum’s pink cord.
In remission six months,
his body novocained and irradiant,

he trembles, threadbare, as the birds unwheel him.
The early evening’s furnace casts
us both in a shimmering sweat.
In a wisp Gabriel might appear to us,
as to Mary, announcing a sweet
miracle. But there is none.

The lilies pack in their trumpets,
our nesting dove nuzzles her eggs,
and chameleons color their skin with dusk.
A half-life can be deepened by the whole,
sending out signals of a sixth sense,
as if the unabashed youthful eye

sees clearest to the other side.
A lemon slice spirals in the icy tea,
a final crystal pulse of the sun reappears,
and a newer infinite sight
takes hold of us like the jet of color
at the end of winter. Has it begun:

the strange electric vision of the dying?
Give me your hand, friend.
Come see the travelers arrive.
Beneath the lazy, bankrupt sky,
theirs is a world of joy trancing
even the gulls above the silver ferry.


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