James Harms

Black Mule

                        G.W. McLennan, 1958-2006

To be awakened by moonlight.
To be taken from suffering.

        To be carried to a night so blue and deep
                it seals the wounds.

To hear the salt of healing like the boil of waves retreating.

        To change the words to another song, to just one song, to every song.

To feel daylight leave the earth like a yellow wind.
                        To feel darkness turn silver in the veins.

To leave a trace like frost on the lip of a cup.
To know we are remembered.

To lose every fingerprint in the dust of an abandoned city.

To ride a black mule through rain and night and coal and ash
        and ride on into an emptying of air and light
        into hills blown brown and low and crumbling
        into the sea of a north coast summer.

        To ride on changed by being blessed.

To know, for a while, we are remembered.

                To change the words as if we could be remembered.

To stop too soon as if to turn
        to hear another voice at the edge of the clearing.

                To leave a trace
                        like a fingerprint on the wind.

To heal into death like a song sung softly to a child at the edge
        of sleep, who will remember it like the dream
        of a father returning, his hands holding salt
        to heal the forgetting, to heal every changed word.