It would be easier if it were like death.
After the grief, flowers and the shovelled earth,
After the nights burdened with memory
And the company of the ghost whose flesh one loves,
After the years of solitude, one learns
To accept the impossibility of return.
But the teacher in me will always return,
To resurrect in spite of death
The paths I have taken as I have learned
The infinite ways one can circle the earth
To come afresh upon the views one loves
So that the mind reminds the race's memory.
And now, as I stop circling, my memory,
Like a fallen spinning top, returns
In my stasis to the moments I love
When students and I were freed from death,
As we switchbacked our views to see the earth
While joy sprung out in sharing what we learned.
Ten years I've taught and what have I learned?
I know the falterings of my memory
Like the wind's erosion of rock and earth.
I know the phrases that come and return
In the prolonged agony of my death;
And I know my knowledge is that of love.
Jilted, how do I find mates to laugh and love?
How do I act in my nature and learn
The ways the mind of man have conquered death?
To what use do I urge my memory?
I am my own ghost. Daily I will return
To search out market places on earth.
But Socrates treads only once on earth.
The rest of the time he lives in the words of love.
He is alive for I will, by God, return
To the ways one's life is what one wants to learn.
How can I live unless I use my memory
To free others as I free myself from death?
I must fashion on earth without my death
Where I love as I write to magic my memory
So that I return each time my words are learned.
© 1982 John J. Saldo
Poet and ex-teacher JOHN J. SOLDO writes us from Portales, NM.
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