Two poems for Tom Leonard


A Voice

You know about words and breath

       how speech works    how the voice

       makes its way in the world    or does not

       You know about silence


You know about breath    its lack

       each step measured

       by the lung you carry with you

       like a man at altitude


Can there be a democracy of air

       all of us breathing the same rush

       of particulate matter    microbes

       spores    dust    our atmosphere


that interaction of air sacs and oxygen

       of body and world

how it keeps working or does not

how the breath stops    How it stopped


It’s good to be alive    to come home

       to your own place

       music     sunlight through windows

       over bright geraniums


below you the life of the street

       exuberant traffic of city air

       tyres on the roadway

       and voices    always voices


This time, for a time    it’s enough

       to be alive      loved

       in all the singularity of selfhood


to not to have to do this other thing


this intentional act

       that seems like wandering    or chance

       a question that wells up

       and must be answered


of what it is to be a person

       breathing    thinking

       willing the self    into being




Origami for Tom Leonard


and there was that time

involving tears (mine)

and a crumpled handkerchief (yours)


because of what I’d let slip    the breath

lost    as if diction were it


Dear Tom, this    is how we are

here and now    breathing into existence

the words    each line

of each unfolding poem