Writ in Water for Agha Shahid Ali
by Dean Kostos
When Keats coaxed his mind into a page of whiteness,
he unrolled a scroll of seeing, required for witness.
Latin spirare weaves spirit and breath.
Life transpires, vapor through leaves. Flesh expires as witness.
Knowing his breath would spiral away, Keats
gave himself to odes and sonnets, inspired to witness.
As a brede of lesions pocked his lungs, he no longer climbed
the Spanish Steps. Bedridden, he desired witness.
Each night he leaned deeper into that urn that spoke,
to learn its wordless beauty: truth lyred into witness.
Did he pour his self into the word martyr — witness in Greek?
Did he write his nest of poems to be pyred in witness?
Am I, Dean, too afraid to carve the dark
that surrounds the self prior to witness?
Death’s negative capability reclaims the artist,
but bequeaths the art — in ink or clay — fired in witness.