in memory of Victoria Moore, 1961-2005
The clock in the heart of town
missed the courthouse torn down long ago.
The clock suffered itself to be wound,
then told some other time. What was the rush?
The train was late, as always,
the train that no longer ran from ocean to gulf.
Gone were the flatbeds stacked with logs,
the boxcars of pencils from Cedar Key.
Still, the depot stood, shuttered,
a puffed-up pigeon now stationmaster.
A cloud crossed the platform—
was it you, V., as you were twenty years ago,
come to college with your grandmother's Samsonite?
My first student, let me carry your suitcase.
You won't need that heavy coat
or the grassy blanket, the bedsheet of dirt.
No one dies, then comes to Florida—
no, just the reverse.
They plugged your ears with cotton
and folded your hands, not to be opened again.
A silky pillow was plumped for your bald head.
Some chemical formed a bead
at the tip of a syringe: a pearl the size of the soul,
if there were such a thing. Leave us.
The River Styx lies south of here, in the next county,
you'll recall. Don't chase a kingfisher across it.
If you need to rest, don't crawl into a hole
in the bank, the way the swallows do.
Fold your wings in the weeds that flourish
by Elysian Fields, the new "golf retirement community."
Hawks hunt the living on one side of the river;
vultures shadow the dead on the other. Stay low.