In the Garden
for Sydney Chandler Faulkner
This bench was once a tree.
The curved, sap-filled trunk
planed to ruler-straight lumber,
measured, cut, hammered.
Bruised clover and grass,
pebbles and brick dust underfoot,
two white birches sway
over and around me.
In twenty years of constant death
I’ve only seen one man die.
looked eighty, was forty-six when
he gasped for his last taste of air.
One clawed hand raked the sweaty sheet.
I held the other.
Unseeing eyes flitted.
Young and stupid, I was eager
for large experiences, I waited
to hear “the death rattle.”
I knew I would write about you.
And for twenty years I couldn’t.
Today, older than you were then,
I still can’t describe
the Sydney-shaped hole
you punched in the world.
Steve Turtell is the author of Heroes and Householders (Orchard House, 2009), reissued in 2012 in an expanded second edition. His 2001 chapbook, Letter to Frank O’Hara, won the Rebound Chapbook Prize given by Seven Kitchens Press and was reissued with an introduction by Joan Larkin in 2011. He is currently at work on Fifty Jobs in Fifty Years, and Peter Hujar: Invisible Master. Steve lives in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter as @rdturtle and friend him on facebook.
This poem appeared in Heroes and Householders and Letter to Frank O’Hara.
Photo by John Masterson.