Robert F. Willis (May 12, 1921 – November 3. 1987)
For Bob Willis, All My Love
I remember walking through snow to Long’s Bookstore
two men not at work on Wednesday morning
with time to kill before going to the clinic.
The father says tentatively
pushing hands into coat pockets:
I don’t know what poetry is
I work with my hands
I’m awkward with words.
The son knows he just heard one
his heart pounds, he wants to cry.
Remember this, remember this moment:
four wet shoes instead of two
first snow’s filtered swelling light.
I awaken ten years later to think stammer
everything I could not tell you
You were willing to listen to me
to find out the man who could weld two
elephants’ asses together
if they stood still long enough
who taught me that water freezes
and melts at the same temperature
which is not a point at all
or a line to cross
only move¬ment, direction.
The genome of silence and stride piano
is yours and mine together: we play it by ear.
It’s nurtured on the wind, in the shadows
of buzzards soar¬ing at the farm.
It passes from gnarled cedar roots
to the grit of barefoot sandstone.
It punctuates the tedium of making
and spending money, of getting
up every day to fall asleep on the couch.
If it’s worth anything, it’s like a river
laughter, or a woman’s touch:
we cannot know when or how it arrives,
we cannot keep it the same.
I still believe the answer
I managed for you then.
Whatever it is is more
than what is memorized
recited or printed in books.