Before hearing about your death
I began a novel inspired by you
and your struggle with the truth--
The truth of who you were,
what you wanted of life and of me.
And it became a journey
into the past, into a life
that had happened before
we met, decades ago,
and after we parted for good,
I wove a new life out of remnants,
of things I knew or just supposed.
And like a good researcher,
I told of your parents' failings,
the darker side of love.
Of your grandmother and friends,
and even your cousin who
brought you to me,
Luring you out of the homogeneous crowd
and into our perfect valley--
"the land of spires and dreams".
I even spoke warmly of our artless love
and our drifting apart like ghost ships.
After our second parting,
when you left the mortal coil,
I tried not to reminisce about us,
for the story was yours, not mine,
But I fear that a mirror kept
cropping up behind me and
around corners, erasing mystery.
Narcissus caught me time and again.
Even so, I created times for you
that I had never seen or heard.
I have you swimming off La Jolla,
traipsing on mountain paths
in the wilds of British Columbia,
or arguing with your wife
in that mansion you dreamed of.
I invented a girl you would like
and two kids who loved you
in spite of everything.
Your memories of me became
less urgent, locked in a chess box,
in songs or on film, hidden away.
I analyzed your youth, your vanity,
lust, boredom, mistakes and age.
And when it came time for you
to make a decision: to stay or go
again, either west or east,
I stopped and looked over your life,
rolled out flat, like the American plain
from western crags to eastern city
and like a broken record,
the choice shuttled back and forth,
not letting me decide for you.
Glancing at a photo
of your childhood home,
I realized at last,
not that you had died too soon,
but that I really never knew you.