Matthew

Matthew

I was with friends
who told me about you,
like grave news
about someone close, a brother,
gone away to college—
too far away to do
anything—something—
immediate.

But, I was there, instantly,
in every ugly detail
reading the words
hearing the broadcasts
as you were stolen
from all chance I would ever
earnestly meet you.

So full, I have to shut my heart
or bear the choke of tears too many
and the heaviness of sympathy—
empathy.
All I have to do is think a moment
on you, your published face,
and I am taken in, given space
to cry more and pray
no more.
Your name has become a battleground,
and your likeness raised in stained glass,
transformed into a different
kind of shepherd.

And I wonder
even as I write
to you in memory
if you are wondering
who chose you to lead?
Did you speak so loudly then
as you rally so loudly now.

The shivers and flecks
of your life reflected in mine,
as a student, a gay man,
as a son,
bring me face to face
with the perils of living.
You teach me, give me words
to talk about death—
publicly, openly, without fear.
It is another of our secrets,
a second kind of closet.

You remember for me
the Thursday my mother died,
the adrenaline of a phone call,
the sweet smell of hospitals,
hurried walks, closed eyes,
and the silence in room ten.
And the pain witnessed there
is not and is the same here,
the struggle to stand then
is the slow survival now.

The grieving time is long
even when we laugh or sleep
or forget to remember.
But in grieving a far away
stranger, I grieve and
speak loudly of
my lost shepherd,
here—
always—
present—
close.

—EYC 2009

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