Poem 328 ± April 27, 2016

Richard Fox
At Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago 2001

I hate your death—
not its foreignness
& not your dying
of it, but the fact
of it—the no-moreness
of you. Your tree’s
still here—occupying
space over the sun-packed
fence next to the broken-
into mausoleum—
its tree-breath
outlasting yours:
the only birch
in Rosehill. You loved
looking at it through
the wavy art glass window
from your perch,
turning tricks as you did
in some rich bastard’s
death museum.

I love being here
when the snow comes,
when everything
gets a lesson in
humility, but I hate
your death. And
I’ve come to talk,
to come here for
the other gay experience—
it’s where Suki’s come at 32

& Frank’s brother
at 27, but most—like you—
just past young
& on the cusp
of becoming interesting.

I’ve come here
between the markers
where you’ve come
into the palimpsest
of earth
(life’s rust body’s rust)
& where words like
fag & AIDS have
also come to rest,
closed tight in your grave.
You lie beneath
Chicago where I’ve come
to live & where life
streams by like
it does on the coasts
& in between,
but once inside either
grave or church,
you must invest
in silence, but
you neither
want it nor possess it:
I must tell it to you
or bring it with me here,
where you no longer
have to self-suffice.
Stranded, I will cry;
stranded again, I will cry.
Grief—like farming—
is bitter work.

But I’ve come to talk,
& now I will let string
& tin can slip between
the clay & gravel,
down into your grave—
old tech telephony—
to catch you up on things
that have happened
since you died
in the fight against
the Plague,
& how we still doff
as we flip between
the binaries of
natural cause & genocide
as easily as taking off
our Sunday finery.
It was your kind of fight:

oh, to have lived your
life book-ended by
the span of the Twentieth
Century. Oh my liege,
my queen, my queer,
I would dig you up
with the souvenir
spoon you brought me
from your last trip
to Cancun.
But out of spite,
I want you to break
up through the earth
like a swimmer who breaches
the surface, where
you become an anti-
spadeful, pushing up
from the ground
like you’ve dedicated
a construction site
before the builders
come; before the rabble
come in their over-
extended reach.

I will quilt the patterns
of your long hours’
watch over
the eighty-something
birch tree—rings
uncountable as Saturn’s—
into swaddling
to cover you
against the dearth
of your last days—
the dizzy wig of
your last minutes doffed—
when you were
taken away so some-
one else could birth
in your place.
What did you mean
when you said
My words are meant to mean
or when you said
Bury me in my mother’s wedding gown
as if by then you’d be
thin enough to fit into it?
Of all the raw
deals, explanations
abound: pick one
from the gee & haw
& boo-hooing

I shall miss your tree
& your eye-stare
through the glare-bound
squares of mortuary glass.
My bad eyes,
your rotten luck:
I’ve come here to say
goodbye to all that.


Richard Fox

Richard Fox is the author of Swagger & Remorse (Tebot Bach, 2007). He was a 2000 recipient of an Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council. He holds a BFA in Photography from Temple University, Philadelphia and lives in Chicago.

This poem appeared in the anthology Windy City Queer: LBGTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast.