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(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 stride)

we all.

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

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