The words you have become | Lisa Vihos

Poem for the Passing

When the heartbeat and pulse of the inevitable Lake Jackson
are no longer a marshy bother, I too, with any luck, will disappear.
—Michael Rothenberg, "On Lake Jackson"
I think you are getting it all wrong
	my friend,
because no matter where we go,
	we never completely disappear.
		you can appreciate	what I am saying here.

I have been learning this the hard way 
	as one death after another 
		weighs down upon me this past year
old school friend
	vibrant work friend
	dearest artist friend
	three mentors in one year
	and my father who left almost four years ago now
which seems like only		

I’m telling you,
no one who writes
						                        or dreams

ever disappears completely
	marks are left
	seeds planted
	roads traveled

and even
	when the ocean washes away
		the last footprints
			from the face of the beach,
				the sand remembers who stood there
and who carried 
		the smallest
				grains of it away
							to other shores.
March 30, 2017

Lisa Vihos
Salerno, Italy, 2015
Photo by Michael Dickel

The Blanket of Immortality

for Michael Rothenberg
We go back a long way, you and I.
On the night we met, 
you were words on a screen and a picture
of a man in front of a sunflower, 
who said he was looking for poets,

one hundred thousand of them 
to organize poetry readings, to share words.

Words of Change! 

I answered the call and we became friends,
and words became threads that held us.
For twelve years, you brought a world 
of poets together every September 
floating up their words to make 
many skies, one sky.
Many dreams, one dream. 

You had a dream 
to make the world a better place.
I had a dream to help. 
There was joy along the way
and never-ending sorrow. 

Grievances, uncertainties, and a long list 
of injustices that had us screaming for change. 
Not for ego—never ego—but to make
a difference, to right the wrongs of this world.

Now, you are gone, but not gone. 
Not here, but here.
Cancer took your body, 
but not your words. 

Before you left, you told me a story
of an alpaca blanket that you bought in Colombia, 
when you were twenty and wide-eyed, 
brimming over with the music of the world.
That blanket carried you, kept you, sang you to sleep,

and made you feel as if you could live forever,  
so much easier to believe that at twenty than seventy.

But the story is that the blanket was destroyed 
by a chance toss into the washing machine, 
then, the dryer. All this done by a well-meaning caregiver,	
who offered to buy you a new blanket, 
not understanding that it was not the blanket that mattered, 
but the dream that it embodied.

And now you have taken a new shroud, 
one we will all wear, each in our own time.

Wherever you are now, I know you will meet the soul
of the alpaca and thank him for the wool he gave.
He knows you loved him for the blanket he became, 
just as the world will always know you and love you

for the words you have become.
December 1, 2022

©2022 Lisa Vihos
All rights reserved

Lisa Vihos…

…has poems in many poetry journals, both print and online. She has four chapbooks and two Pushcart Prize nominations. In 2020, she was named the first poet laureate of Sheboygan, WI where she hosts the podcast Poetry on Air for Mead Public Library. 

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