Steelworker, lover of cars (he exchanged these often),
lover of women (he was faithful to one),
fast friend, storyteller nonpareil,
improver of homes by both hands and his presence.
Who sang in church loudly and off-key before his God,
teaching us importantly of self-unimportance.
Whose experience in leave-takings was impressive:
father, stepfather, mother, sister,
wife, friends…many of these too shockingly soon,
as if grief lazily kept exacting its tolls
from the same stoic one.
So that, at his own end, he may have seen
better than we. Behind the nurses’ backs
he kept disassembling himself from lines and tubes
that held him to us, and this dusty place.
Open the door, he murmured that last day.
We kept handing him tools:
our love, his faith, promises of spectral reunions
that were too easy for us to make.
Open the door, he said again, again.
Until one of us, diffident, feeling all thumbs
in the carpentry of this twilight comfort
leaned and told him, It is open. Go.
You have left for us a thousand sturdy rooms
that will stand even the storms of your absence.