A Lifetime

Harold Seligman, Jr. 1972

On this fiftieth anniversary of Harold’s death, I offer two poems, one from 1992 and the other from 2022.

Revisiting the fields of promise, listening
						to Harold
If I could write to you
what would I say?
This lament is for me
driving home tonight
in my silver sports car,
not so unlike you,
wanting for one moment to sail
out there, over the film of fear
that settles like dew on the promise of green.

Heading off to college, wise beyond your time,
you left me
holding the gifts: a keen eye, an open heart, a quick mind
passed them to the child who donned your gravity
as surely as your oxford cloth shirts,

poised    on the cusp    the world wide open

and you sailed into that tree
in one stunning moment,
it was over;

you were free, high above the fields of promise.

I used to cringe at the thought of your terror
the moment you lost control
but tonight the wind whispers your relief,
the exhilaration of letting go.

The wallet was still damp in our mother's hands
long after the firemen extinguished the flames,
you floating across darkness
pulling indigo from the sky,
head thrown back in laughter
released from the prospects of what you could do,

long gusts across morning
high above the fields of wildflowers blooming
you beckon me to dream myself into waves
of color that dance with you

who I followed everywhere.
This time I stay
behind to listen, at long last
to the peals of your laughter, travelling
through the whistle that carries the wind.


A lifetime

It’s been thirty years
since last I wrote what I might say.
I could tell you—after wondering so long which yard you sailed across
In the darkness—out of the blue Holly Kyle sent your death notice 
and a yellowed article about the accident found in her mother’s papers—
how I spent hours trying to find the family of James Ira Trotter who 
lived in the house with the scorched tree.

Like you, it’s gone, removed— 
The whole lawn re-landscaped, house razed and replaced, no sign 
of you anywhere, no lingering depression in the soft earth 
recalling your presence, 
no tractor trails from childhood when you and Roundtree rode 
the red Massey-Ferguson, bush-hogging fields in the summer sun.
No stray bits of hay left from the day the truck you drove lost its load, 
bales scattering roadside,
yet somehow this life bears it all, a pentimento of terrain 
formed by shifting plates beneath tender ground.

Fifty years ago I could not imagine life continuing without you.
Today, half a century ribboning out beneath my feet, your youthful
visage still smiles from the photo that graced our mother’s fridge for years—
placed there because that’s where she could always find you, looking for a snack.

Skin dotted by age, hair salted gray, would you know me at sixty-three, 
when I would give anything to see you now?
What stories would emerge from inside the hollow place you left me,

20 August 2022
One Comment
  1. Incredibly beautiful and moving.
    I feel in awe of commenting on such a deeply intimate “conversation”, lest my words seem disrespectful, yet I just had to acknowledge the humanity in these poems.

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