Parsing my words in his office at the back
of the building, Archie Markham breathed in
and leaned toward me. Something is missing
from your poems -they need, he began
then halted, a stillness ringing
with movement. They need,
eyes creasing, head shaking back
and forth across a small span
. . . mmnhh . . .
the sound quick but not harsh,
his hands opening upward toward me,
chest tilted forward, spilling
out the breath of it, not metaphors,
not images, but . . . mmnhh . . .
he who lived in words refused
a word, or words at all,
shoulders folding inward
around the necessary absence,
not better ideas or forms, he insisted,
the quick compass of his gaze falling
on the breach at the heart of my lines,
but life and roughness and
. . . mmnhh . . ., he exhaled, half-rising
from his chair with the not-word.
Every gesture and jagged phatic
of that single hour of his long existence,
which began in Montserrat and took him
to Sheffield, Maputo and Paris,
writing them all and the interval
is with me still.
Groundbreaker, you leapt
That you leapt,
and sometimes fell,
revealed the interval
and what breathes there,
the jagged, the not-yet,
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