by John Grey
The bronze plaque on the park bench
bears your name.
Your wealthy father paid for it.
And your friends make sure
it’s always buffed up shiny as your eyes.
Even I rub my elbow across it
when I’ve been slumped down
on its comfortable seat
on days like this
when a thick summer haze
dulls the details of the grass and tree-tops.
And look at those pigeons.
I’m certain when they puff up their feathers,
stretch their wings,
it’s all some kind of Morse code
spelling out your name –
Same with the ducks
as they paddle their secret trail
up and down and across the pond.
You fed them all on a daily basis.
They flocked to your caring.
Didn’t we all?
I’m surprised they haven’t named
the park after you.
Maybe someday they will.
You came here often,
sat beneath the giant maple,
wrote your poems.
You strolled the paths.
You patted every passing dog.
You were as much presence as person
and your imparted yourself
upon every person or beast
you came upon.
Yes, you were slight.
And your body didn’t treat you with respect.
And your father’s money
couldn’t pay off death.
But we all envied your optimism.
We could have used it for our lesser ills,
our modest downfalls.
I believe the park, its wildlife, its greenery,
were the insides you wished for yourself.
Your flesh deserved to wrap around that breeze,
not the bones that never had your back.
Your pain stretched its barb-wire
from head to toe.
But your face didn’t know from spiteful,
never soured from some unwelcome thought.
So that’s why the plaque is here.
Not in your hospital ward.
Not on your bedroom wall.
The sparrows mull around.
A terrier flirts with an impassive bulldog.
Moss clings to the trunk of an oak.
It’s where I know the people
that I knew when.
It’s where the smallest of pleasures
do not back pedal their significance.