he can’t be gone can he—for jack

by Christopher Soden

word came days after at a poetry workshop
consistent with the nature of our connection
he was a friend rabbi father shaman
mentor I spent some of my most serious
drinking hours in his rich company appreciating
the glow of shared ideology getting sloppy
and burning burning with care and epiphany
I told him I loved him from the podium
of my graduate reading explaining he was
the reason I stood before that gathering
which was not flattery or exaggeration
to this moment I recall finding my way
late to his classroom and his looking up
to inform me as if I’d entirely lost
my compass we met for lunch that semester
and seth around seven I think
was wheedling him to help carve
their halloween pumpkin I would feel like
a phony now trying to excuse the distance
between us bred more of omission and dwindling
luxury of time on a residency in Europe I remember
how relieved I was to sneak him a smoke how
ghoulish is it to think of that now but I wish
I’d made time to see him in hospice when
they said he was down to a flicker
as usual I was distracted and a coward
in my heart he was a raw seraphic mingling
of bells and undiluted light he was my
leonine oracle but I could not bear to break
down at his bedside to demonstrate the fierce
longing he ignited in me it took a few minutes
after I got the news my head feverishly
transmitting repeatedly these neglected words
too late to reach him before
his train pulled out