Then


there will be the last glass of port
the final cigar
the last time to sit around a fire

there will be the very last time to make music
and to play it with friends

and then there will be
portraits
dolphins
old photographs
people who know your stories
and secrets

there will be ashes and water
and flowers upon the water

and then this writing

and then

For Robert F. Leng, 27 October, 2012, Los Angeles

 

Dolphins accompany us as we remember Robert

Advertisements

The Protector


They sat alone in the great, comfortable study, the two of them, as they often did in the quiet hours of the night. The older one, in his deeply upholstered chair, looked weary in all ways save one: his eyes, bright and watchful as always. The young man perched on the edge of the settee opposite, across the low wooden table between them. An unassuming fire burned persistently in the fireplace, beneath the mantle with its few mementos, meaningful only to the man in the chair.

“Are you really retiring?” asked the younger one. His dark hair, never quite in order, framed the earnest inquisitive directness of his expression. The man looked away for a moment, and answered simply, “yes”.

“Hmmm. So, then you have selected a successor? A new Protector?”

“Ah, well. No, I don’t exactly select the Protector. But really, you know this; how it works.”

In answer the younger man rose gracefully, and walked over to a small, round table nearby. There was a plant on the table, and a framed picture, the only picture of an actual person in the room. He touched nothing, but looked at the pretty woman in the picture. She was sitting on a blanket, apparently on a beach, and wore large-lensed sunglasses, a floppy hat under which spilled dark tresses and a childlike, uninhibited smile. A smile uniquely for the photographer. He gazed at the face in the photograph.

“Yes”, he said, a murmur to himself.

Turning to face The Protector, the young man said, “but it has been a long road.” A statement that nevertheless was a question, or more precisely, an invitation. The older man grunted acknowledgement. The other remained standing, waiting.

“It is a great responsibility”, said The Protector. “I can’t ask it of anyone. I can’t appoint it. One of them rises to it, always, and he becomes the new Protector. It is a matter of ability and duty, and if it has taken a while, then it has taken a while.”

“And of course“, said the young man, a lopsided grin hinting at the corner of his mouth, “there is the power that goes with it.”

The older man looked intently at the other. Like himself, he wore mostly black.

“It is what one needs to do the job. Nothing more.”

“You know what they say about power…”

The Protector grunted, and said, “it is hardly absolute. Or are you saying I am corrupt?”

“You? No. No, not corrupt, but perhaps not… undamaged?”

“Nobody remains undamaged for long. We are all a little broken.” And The Protector smiled as he said this, a wide smile that somehow did not quite extend to his eyes, which remained on his friend.

The standing man looked back at the picture, and after a moment, asked, “Did you ever consider what, exactly, you protect them from?”

“Yes, of course, but in the end, there is no answer. One just knows when it is needed. One does what one must. That is the talent, after all.”

“Well, now that you’re passing the mantle, I suppose it isn’t very important, eh?”

The Protector thought a moment.

“I wouldn’t say that”, he said, almost to himself.

The young man passed a hand close to the picture, as if caressing the face it showed, but not quite touching it.

“And the people you protect?”

“Yes?”

“How do they feel about it?”

The older man frowned, and answered.

“Does it matter? Isn’t it enough that they are spared? What are you getting at?”

“Just that things could have been very different. I sometimes wish they had been. That you had failed just once.”

The Protector looked down, and when he looked back up, he was alone.

The room was comfortable, and in his chair The Protector sat, safe as he ever was. Safe as always.

Los Angeles, October 17, 2012

The First Night of Winter


As the first cold night of winter makes itself felt
and deepens the silence of the darkness,
I feel a heaviness, like that of fatal judgment,
settle around me,
dimming the already low, yellow light
thrown off by the single bulb;
testament to the long finished battle between Tesla and Edison.

This day spent hearing my friend’s doom
spoken of calmly in long, scientific terms,
in that small room, with its three chairs
and its raised, padded table.
Spoken by a man not unkind,
yet professionally unprofligate of too much kindness.

And in that enormous compound of
flesh,
blood,
chemicals,
and machines,
they come by their many thousands,
each to hear and partake of
his or her own weird fate.
And the place is a monument,
no, a temple,
or even the temple,
where come the hopeless,
for help,
and the helpless,
for hope.

And all who come leave with both, and with neither.

By what grace, then, am I here to simply observe?
Beyond, for now, whatever ill will has brought
this calamity unto my friend?

In that moment, in this preternatural darkness,
On this first cold night of winter,
I look back upon myself, as from across the room,
and think, “poor shell, on which so much has been expended.”
And I know the difference between my self
and that shell for which someday will be shed maudlin tears.

And, to my surprise, this is not a fearful thing.

Los Angeles, October 12, 2012

The Path


there are pathways in the world
straight and sharp as the edge of a perfect blade
curled and ridged like the tail of a chameleon
rising beyond the clouds
sinking below the great pit at the center of the soul of the world

and they are all the same pathway

every way leads back to itself
and yet like a river
never the same twice

your own footsteps
having trod upon the path
change the path
forever

but it is still the same path
and where you will go
there you have been
and have been
and have been
and will be

each time different
but the way is the same

where once there is love
always there is love
and there is always love
even when the path has changed
and become unrecognizable
even when the love has changed
and become unrecognizable
even when you have changed
and become unrecognizable

it remains the same path
and the same love

Los Angeles, October 4, 2012

The Voice


A voice went silent, once and for all, today.
Probably not a voice you ever heard,
Nor words you ever were meant to understand,
But a voice, nevertheless.

It was a voice I often heard, and not often enough,
Made harmony and counterpoint to match.

And the voice had a face. And the face was rarely
Without the smile that characterized the face
In every memory of it that I can recall.

And it is strange how the voice and the face,
Now in fact gone from the world we know,
Is still present.

I hear the voice.
I see the face.

I return its smile
As though the voice and the face
were here now.

And thus, for me, it will ever be.

Rest in peace, Robert F. Leng.