For James Tate
by Doug Anderson
I might as well play soccer with a trilobite.
I am the last of my species,
would not have made it thus far
had I not been held in other memories.
I was a child once, lay on my belly
and watched crawfish build their mansions of mud,
set fire to dry grass
with old folks’ magnifiers, shook the family Bible
to see what ghosts fell out,
played with my mother’s giant squid —
that red rubber thing with the long hose
that hung from the shower nozzle
and attacked my floating bathtub boats
only to be saved at the last minute by Audie Murphy.
I know you know what I mean,
suspended as you are between your last breath
and a glass of absinthe with Breton.
We were baby bombs: born the same year,
dropped into the white sands of Los Alamos
in a white blast too loud to hear too bright to see.
Of course we would have understood blue boobies.
Of course we projected color
onto all those black and white newsreels.
For some surrealism is nothing more
than seeing what is minus the frame of understanding.
But your passing makes me lonely.
I fear waking up one day and all who knew me
will be gone and I will wander into
that great cotillion of strangers, strange myself,
a native of a world whose road signs are written
in a language I don’t understand —
everyone young, and myself fading, transparent,
they look through me at each other, I am gone.