In David’s Eyes
for my friend, always “the Broms”
He said wait, at least ten years, maybe more,
if you must tell it, let it age, mature.
And so I have, waited, humored his sure
conviction that time and context restore.
Secretary by day, writer by night,
athlete at university, turned down
by seminary, denied alb or gown
because, for him, lying was just not right.
At the end of our first week, sipping wine,
not that we liked it, concession to chic,
declared us allies, the suffering meek,
destined to outwit the front of the line.
I know you, all edges and sharps, trying
to make porcupines seem positively
cuddly – like it – the mask, deceptively
aloof -- won’t work with me. I do prying.
Kansas slow, rippling wheat fields in his speech,
way of being, youngest of eight, like me,
confused by the view of society
that last meant spoiled, ruined, like some old peach.
Let me read his short stories, half the play
never finished, but not the novel, shy
about that, evasive until the why
was too clear to miss, a hospital stay.
No amount of prayer or therapy or
pledges of celibacy were enough
to fix or satisfy his father’s tough
Baptist will or mother’s RC ardor.
He simply couldn’t, with direct question,
say anything other than exactly
what he thought he knew, carefully, aptly,
but true, without guile or wise digression.
He knew what he couldn’t do, so tried not
to hate himself, but haunted by childhood
belief in authority, saw no good
in being fully himself, with sin fraught.
Immune system failing fast, the gay plague
new, frightening, friends disappearing, gone
in denial, fear, means of help withdrawn,
loss of job, insurance, excuses vague.
He did not want me to read of his one,
just one, failure to contain, defeat, hide
his fall, the reason he’d been cast aside
by family, church, not prodigal son.
Let me make the call to the one brother
who might understand, might help, when the first
bout of pneumonia scared us both, cursed
or not, family, surely … wrong answer.
It’s just you, my dear, dear Empress of the
Eternal Ephemera. They think death
is my just reward. Coughed another breath,
closed his eyes, as if that would protect me.
Retreated into dark laughter, childish
games to pass the time when he was too weak
to write, chutes and ladders with the freak
former altar boy, bruised, near the finish.
Portmanteau, his favorite word, better
than pedestrian baggage, imagined
his story fine lingerie examined
by nuns at the thrift store, blushing chatter.
Tried to convince him to unpack, reduce
the weight, the volume, to just a valise
lightly carried, trust God’s wisdom, release
the burden of human error, abuse.
His answer, the burning of the pages
typed in pain, preserved in plastic binders
long stacked on brick and plank shelves, reminders
of hope fading with the AIDS, in stages.
Wept, when I brought an Episcopal priest
brave enough for communion with modern
leper, outcast, sinner, to his cavern
of private despair, in one touch, true feast.
Bathed him, still shyly insisting on swim
trunks for the immersion, demure, proper
but craving the gentle soaping, lather
and warm water defying all the grim.
Wrapped his emaciated six foot two
in blankets fresh from the dryer to warm
the perpetual shivering, the storm
within raging, winding down, but not through.
Made the call, after spreading his ashes
in the Charles, as requested, his mother,
“Oh, if only I had known ….” A kinder
me would have comforted, spared the lashes,
“That’s what everyone says, to pretend,
soothe their own guilt, knowing full well the lie
of it, your shame in wanting him to die,
to stop being your lost, a wound opened.”
It was not kind, but it was my hand that
wrote his letter, begging, at last, for her
forgiveness, love, one final little stir
of maternal instinct, last words private.
There was no reply. Just a look exchanged.
In David’s eyes there was a knowing,
and I was honored by its showing.
Marthe G. Walsh
"In David's Eyes" by Marthe G. Walsh. © 2012 Marthe G. Walsh.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Marthe's two books of poetry, Among the Thorns and Heretic for a Loving God may be purchased at Lulu.