for Donald Justice, 1925—2004

The fish shacks turned an oystery glow,
the drowned light more intense.
Along the blank sky low
clouds learned from experience.

A bridge leapt over the inlet
where sawtooth reeds had bedded,
like spears in rusting silhouette,
as the summer storm receded.

Carved from gray blocks of wood,
enormous sad pelicans
on the concrete balustrade stood
stiff as librarians,

as if they dimly knew
the mighty events to come.
The distant thunder grew
fainter, like a brushed kettle-drum.

And you were a great bird, sickly,
fleeing the northern weather.
Ten years had passed quickly
since we watched the Gulf together.

Look back, you said, at the theft
of boredom, and jazz, and the rages,
and see what little is left—
just a book of the thinnest pages.

Your voice was the gentlest whisper,
your health had gone so fast.
Of all the things you were,
perhaps this would be the last.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 1, on page 29
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