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            Michael H. Levin: Poems and Prose  

CHACONNE


(For William A. Nitze, 10 September 2021)



Burnished in bronze

assumptions, what did

we think we were -- gods

armored against death?


I gaze, in shock,

past calm dark church beams

at this service for Bill

who always showed up


for snowed-out feasts,

annual lunches; in cashmere

and patent-leather shoes to help

paint our apartment


who stayed erect

while we side-stepped towards age

except when they went to wake him

at that California conference.


Billy, loyal

to friends, good talk, and his long quest

to master one partita, and the play

of ideas over fickle polities


cherished comrade

in damp Oxford walk-ups

law school coliseums

our slow chaconne


of marriages,

childbirths, mingled careers

where he stood, solid through-line,

still stitching cross-chords


now this gash

in the staves of our score:

twenty years after,


no more communions


gut-punched again


now this void

snuffling the foreground –

mortality sucking at barbered hairlines,

minimally-rouged cheeks:


master weaver

disappearing in bleached-cambric

memory. Yet I hear among choristers in

this narrow pew


Bill’s muttered oaths

as he wanders

among thickets of notes, stuck in

Bach fugues but persisting


as must (drawn towards

our better selves by the valence

of his measured dance)

we all.




Version first published in The Raven's Perch (Dec. 20, 2021)