Memento: For My Friend, a Carpenter, Whose Father Has Died by Ralph Culver

Memento: For My Friend, a Carpenter, Whose Father Has Died

—for Erhard Mahnke

When you are in your car
driving the darkening road
and the sadness strikes you,
when the lost face rises
from the shatterings of rain
that uncoil a pale longing
across your path,
when you are eating
your cold lunch
by the half-finished houses
and something leaves you,
and you take up the handle
of the hammer and close
your grip on it slowly,
slowly—

when in a moment there
is the sea change, a draining
of blood-salt that harrows
your eyes to fire and water
and your cupped hands await
something that never comes—

remember, do not ever forget,
that the road you take is taking you
under the quavering stars,
that the rain is a thing
you wear in your hair
like dew crowning the trees in summer,
that the houses are patient,
the nail is straight,
the hands are in no need of waiting—

that your eyes are the father,
they are of the world
and are not,
and their seeing bears you
across the world and the water
to witness what all is not lost.

by Ralph Culver, first published 10×3 Plus

Editor’s Note: Second person point of view offers readers a unique perspective into this poem—a man’s words for his friend, both grieving and beautiful, yet also broad enough to describe death’s universal reach.

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