PICASSO’S OLD GUITARIST
To bang from it a savage blue,
jangling the metal of the strings.
—Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”
He has a name we don’t know.
His hands spindle along the rosewood
neck, arm draped across the body.
Perhaps the air has stretched
the wood, strings deadening,
frets sharp even on his calluses.
The whitened threads on his head
are straggled as the shirt frayed
around his shoulder. Curtains shift
behind him, a blue he cannot see.
The end of summer was hard.
Certain notes fade now before
his fingers find their places.
His song should end, but what if it
changed—the first piece he ever learned
coming back to him as easily as wind
stirring cloths on café tables.
His legs cross as they once did.
Percussive chords thrum the air.
Jangles of trills. This frail frame
has accompanied him from overture
to finale. There’s nothing left
but to embrace it like a child.
for Max Miller d. Dec. 18
and Joey Bryant b. Dec. 18
Sometimes I think you have
a living tombstone. The same date
marks your going and his coming.
I can imagine the two hospital scenes
like bookends: air fleeing your lungs
in a meager coda and whistling
into him, sharp and burning with just
enough death to make him cry.
I like this idea of balance, likely
rubbish to the dead and the new.
Your face was thick with well-spent
days—his face, which I’d catalogued
as scrawny before blanking
into an idea, is now pumpkin-round
and individual. He delights in syllables
and refuses to be anybody’s epitaph.
He doesn’t know his lurching steps
steer this planet farther from you,
but he knows enough. Already,
he knows to breathe all the air he can.