Samuel Claiborne Recalls Mauro Parisi

Robert Milby’s poem, “The Hudson River in Winter,” brought back memories of Mauro Parisi, who took his life in 2004 by jumping off a bridge. Here are two elegies by Samuel Claiborne.


You were the one I first noticed
In the local coffeehouses
The raconteur
The one with flair and style
The one who loved Merwin
As much as I do

Your were a poet above and below the skin
Down to your tendons and
Out to the tips of your crazed hair

You had the gift of not hurrying
Of pausing line by line
Waiting for the muse to signal
The time to go on

Your hands wove slowly
And you often pointed
With two fingers
Like a renaissance saint
Blessing a benediction

I never knew
That your raconteur’s heart
Had a hollow place
A wound that ate it
From the inside out
Until all your love was gone
And only pain kept beating it

I never knew
That you’d forgotten
That leaves spin in October
And the grass lives a secret green life
Under the snow
The deer forgive the headlights
And the coyote sings for all of us

I never knew
That you’d forgotten
That ‘This too shall pass’

I’d have told you
If you’d flung yourself and fallen
Into my arms
An acquaintance only
But one who loved you nonetheless

* * *

The shallows

Were you born under or over the bulrushes
The steaming streaming waters
Of Tigris and Euphrates
Civilizations of salamanders
Arising in the Moodna Creek

Were you alive and breathing shallowly
As the Hudson bore you along
A weight too slack to bear
A love that must be borne
Sacred and profane and living still

Blood pooled in your lungs
Your brain swelled to immaculate conception
And you breathed the Hudson
And Moodna’s sweet essence
Taking her communion
Impelling her inward
To your grateful throat
Sipping cattails and breezes
That rustled in your ears alone

She tasted like wine and blood
And small things growing

Oh how the bulrushes whispered
And oh how you answered
As you breathed in their light
Breathed them in and bore them to you
Fields of wild sumac filling your eyes
Weighting them yet asking them

Begging your eyes to bear them down
Through the dye-struck stream
To the mother waters where they were struck
By your weighted corpse
Where they were compelled to hold you aloft
As you flew through them
On dying winds

Compelled at last
To course you down to your leaf-filled streams
To whisper your welcome
To your end

To cradle you to your cradle
Of crawdad and Salamander civilizations
Their spots molding your eyes to blindness
Your eyes struck like hammered water
Copper beaten water that flows
Yet does not move
Rustles yet is still
Beaten metal
Furrowed as you plow down to it
Fall through it
Only to arise
To be borne upwards
Through the turbid fluid Moodna essence
Surrounded and suspended and appended
To the clotted casings of life
The scrapings and leavings
Of stream-beds and bulrushes
And only you breezes
And slow trees falling asleep
In the slowly falling light
Gift of every plant that spoke to you in whispers
And died in October

And the sun leaves green in your eyes
And the copper waters bear you down
Past your fallow coffin in your harrowed cemetery

Back to the shallows
The wetlands
The mud lands
Where life seethes
Into ornate filigrees of water striders and damselflies
Back to your shallows that loved you and cradle you still

You were borne out of them by your beloved waters
But the bulrushes whisper your name
And remember you still

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