The Dead Magician’s Things
For Nicholas 1982-2001
They disappear on you anyway.
Warm weather comes and whisks them to beaches or summer jobs
and because you’re young at this, you still caution
them at spring break to be careful with their bodies
on the road, in the water, on a binge.
The doomsayer said his name Nicholas
and his face rose from memory like a body
from a leaf-stained lake, from a flooded quarry
and the sharp features cut, and me just moments away
from teaching others and him, two years and nearly
two hundred students ago and later, some other boy not dissimilar
with that cutting, with eyes like wet stones and warmer.
Memorable—his mother asked what I might recall
if I had any old papers of his and I could only retrieve
a roll sheet with his signature, something
magical to it now. Any ink in his living hand
a magic marker.
But there were others: I had nothing to give her
but these things belonged to him: the sunslant
at the window off his right shoulder, the radius of
a girl’s perfume, the way the spider lily right
about now explodes into something part desperate hand,
part firework, the band of light
pooled on his lashes, the soda sizzle in his mouth,
the moth kiss of light snow, the world the world the world
and what it knew and would not know of him.
II. The dead magician’s donated belongings.
The cage of metal canisters nested,
ornamented with cheap bright pagodas
and men in funny hats, the seashell meant
to be hidden beneath one can then: sleight-of-hand trick
to make it so where things were once
they are no more, as with that dear vanished
boy, who I knew only slightly before the bitter
abracadabra of it all.
I with no rights in this matter either.
Where was I?—teacher of nothing
he could use now—when he stepped off
this pulsating planet and away from the words
which I joked were almost always about dying
or love or loving the world and dying anyhow
and how that sucked—no more eloquence can reach
what I meant, or match her son, the mother who must now
feel like the magician’s assistant, sawed-in-half, then revealed,
forced to amble across the stage: her life, as if whole again:
mother-of-Nicholas-for-always stuck there with a name
full of cuts and strikings shimmering the air
like a synesthetic moon left clanging
from the gong strike which was also my student
as he pierced that winter sky. That sky wearing all its heaven-ness,
a suit made large and of a synthetic fiber. But how it shone.
As did he—through so much confusion, the blur of students
so many of them but I recalled him–yes
just as he left—instantly.
And leaves me here, with words that can’t retract
the awful truth of such a day
full of gravity’s bright loss and so empty.
Which is this elegy, Nick,
and taking roll and toll all at once, your name written in
your now-miraculous hand to say
one day in cruel April you were here.
Who could’ve guessed it would mean so much?
You were not Jane thrown
from a horse, but your death threw
me through a Monday and back out into all of this
too much to bear, too much to spell out
even with the used magic I found donated
at the Goodwill Thrift Store and which I purchased
because you just never know.