Today's poem is by David Lehman

End Note

for Victor Cruz

I hitched my wagon to a whale in the clouds
Obscuring the star in the turbulent sky
I'd had my sights set on. You were my friend.
You understand. To say I tried is to say
I failed if meaning is to language as the end-
Game is to chess. Knight takes pawn, check and mate.

This knight was in possession of a fortune, in want of a mate,
In the post-pill, pre-AIDS era. His head was in the clouds,
But the rest of him was down below, enjoying the desired end
Of his wooing. "Contemplating a flying visit to the sky
Is safer than walking in the south Bronx, but if, say,
You were to come along, I'd chance it," he told his girlfriend,

Who, when they became lovers, didn't stop being his friend.
Her name was Marie. Her role was that of the first mate
In the story of a mutiny. Loyal to the captain, she would say
Something wonderfully cryptic about clouds
As instruments of divination in the reddening sky
Into which the two of them walked, hand in hand. The End.

As for the pawn: In art the means justify the ends.
In ethics they do not. In the Bronx, the friends
Of the fallen street fighter gathered to fill the sky
With an exaltation of larks. Far from the stalemate
In the killing fields, I could see the clouds
Of indifference. A man died in the arms of his fiancée.

The stunned girl feared she would never get to say
The sacred words at the altar. She wanted to end
This game of trial-and-error. Her ex-lover was a cloud
In trousers, a dead ringer for the hero of The American Friend
At the Thalia. Now again she was without a mate
And she was beautiful. Was the fault in the sky

Or in herself that she was single? "In the sky,"
Replied the mirror with her yen for lost causes and passé
Passions. In the zoo she watched the monkeys mate
And wished it could be that simple. The end
of the affair had left her bereft, without a friend
She could talk to, afraid of crowds, lost in clouds

Of smoke, clouds of witness in an unforgiving sky.
The whole experience was an essay in friendship. My friend,
My mate. Forever may you live where memories end.

Copyright © 2005 David Lehman All rights reserved
from When a Woman Loves a Man
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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