From a Photograph By Ben Shahn (1938)
Four men wait for the auction to begin.
Three of them wear bib overalls; the other
has belt and slacks. Two of them wear hats;
one holds his in hand. It is 1938.
The sun is shining down hard on them
on the lawn, burning out the highlights
around barrel and bed, desk and chair,
footstool. Behind them, a shed or garage,
and the back of a great house, white but shaded
by trees. Someone has died, you think. This is
someone's estate sale. The men face each other
and talk, but stand far enough apart their
shadows don't touch. The shed needs to be
re-roofed. You can see that. The lawn needs mowing.
The bushes could stand some trimming. Someone
has died and left behind the clean-up.
You can almost hear flies buzzing in the heat.
Somewhere birds are singing. There's a boy
in the background, walking through the photo,
eleven years old, already lanky,
already wearing a man's hat, swinging
his terrible long arms into some future
which doesn't include this auction and
losses he doesn't know how to bear.
Poem For My Friend With The Guitar
Let us take up our instruments –
you, your sad, sweet guitar;
me, the thick-fingered bass;
and let us tamp out a beat
to get the rhythm going,
the feel of it before it comes.
Then, friend, let us play all night
the song the night has wanted.
is it, you think.
Or could be. Death
is not something
done to us, but
something we do.
Embrace that which
I say. Do not
turn away. Leave
off your grieving.
Take it. Take it
now, holy, whole.