The Silence

By Philip Schultz

for RJ

You always called late and drunk,
your voice luxurious with pain,
I, tightly wrapped in dreaming,
listening as if to a ghost.

Tonight a friend called to say your body
was found in your apartment, where
it had lain for days. You’d lost your job,
stopped writing, saw nobody for weeks.
Your heart, he said. Drink had destroyed you.

We met in a college town, first teaching jobs,
poems flowing from a grief we enshrined
with myth and alcohol. I envied the way
women looked at you, a bear blunt with rage,
tearing through an ever-darkening wood.

Once we traded poems like photos of women
whose beauty tested God’s faith. ‘Read this one
about how friendship among the young can’t last,
it will rip your heart out of your chest!’

Once you called to say J was leaving,
the pain stuck in your throat like a razor blade.
A woman was calling me back to bed
so I said I’d call back. But I never did.

The deep forlorn smell of moss and pine
behind your stone house, you strumming
and singing Lorca, Vallejo, De Andrade,
as if each syllable tasted of blood,
as if you had all the time in the world. . .

You knew your angels loved you
but you also knew they would leave
someone they could not save.

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