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54 the minnesota review Christopher Howell The Search for Stephen Skjei I I do not know the weight of sorrow driving you into the grey grass of twilight or some other faded place. That was long ago, and anyway all little bastard angels hide their eyes when sun goes down. We never saw a thing. The future just took you, shying off wounded into the marshes south of Spanaway. Some say it was a woman or a father, lost clarinet of self, that pulled your pin. It may have been the drugs. You went flying the bicycle of low sun striking a lake, and left us calling "Stephen" into the darkening calendar. What treasures did you take that we wonder after you across a cruel decade of snows and apple blossom? Birds cough in the dirty pines like so many sickened clocks. We know you'll not be back repaired and steady in the air breathing us like reeds. II I can't speak for Böhm, Gaylord and the rest; 55 howell but I am dying of the things I loved to break. That one I married once, for instance, sticks in my rib of care; wooden stake that missed the heart. And those I have betrayed, God help my hands paint every night the fresh ruby lists of face. No help. Also no rose clings to any space on which I fix a roof. Fifteen cities stagger in my spine, that starved road bearing north toward your last known habitation, the mountain of lost shoes. Ill Gone for good. A rocking chair comforts wind on a grey front porch. Look how willows toss their fountainous green in the 12 year echo of your step. We miss you as we miss the gods thrown down by great denial and despair. Gone forever not for good, not for any island in the calm burn of our mutilated star the past. Gone like Ufe goes, casting you this final useless vote: Stephen, out in mist and smoke, take care of longing, it is all you keep. 56 the minnesota review Christopher Howell Notes . . . theflames may burn the oboe but listen buddy boy they can't touch the notes! — Galway Kinnell Green bird the tree of blues is just as high as you. Branches in throat, lungs letting everything fly through and roots in the heart: rhythmic pulsar also of tanager and wren. No idea bends too deep, too shyly in scarlet reeds of the human. Outside my window the tree is everything indigo coming in flute and horn. To be satisfied is to misunderstand your own rosetta; a ragged grackle of it bearing the everyday cracked blue eggs under the mimosa. Whatever sings will not desert its blood paling in dense Spring, the bark and finches and pears. How evening blossoms through its clarinet silver nerves of moonlight! They who long to live keep listening. Those blue leaves torn out of God return music for planet, the sublime equation swaying, caught in its own arms or branches. ...


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