by Michael Klein

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LINK about the author: Michael Klein edited an anthology of poets' responses to AIDS, Forces of Vanishing. I wish I knew updated info but I don't. -gcb


Naming the Elements

The names of the dead
are messages on black marble
and plunge into the earth

They are the notes
of a war
we imagined forgetting

One wrong move
and what remains is how
things began: the naming: the linear
a code: "Vietnam Veteran"

Names find light to circle
the trapping
sponges of involuntary grass.

It is 1:00 AM in Washington
a cursory wind version of October
keeps finding
Kennedy's flame
enlarging and reducing
as if his part of the world
is trying to rise
to the reluctant surface
of a lake

I am thinking of the names for water.

I am floating into the next
morning of another life
into a white and burgeoning sun
rising behind a sobering capitol
unshakable as any other building
that forms the hinge
of this drying Atlantis

The names of the AIDS dead
struggle through a hardening
sound system and land
like brass phoenixes in snow
I cannot remember the names
of the living
until I have left out
the names of the dead
We are all made of
our own people
laying names on the ground
like men unfurling the
video flag on the moon

I am thinking of the names for earth.

Michael, I know what you mean
when you say a name
signals a whole neighborhood,
a family, a system of stars
what gets left to us
this morning
is the serial reverberation
of names wanting to stay
of wanting to name something
I notice
how each panel of each name
enters my head
like the staccoto
report from a full magazine.

I am thinking of the names for fire.

The day tries to keep ending.
When I think of one name I remember
When I watch men of this city
dancing away the diagnosis: alone until
I try not to see them
with names
I try to see them
as intentions of light
I try hearing them as sounds
I cannot bear having to remember
them: their names

I am moving toward the marble dance floor
I am falling away
I am the names for my own dying

I am thinking of names for air.