how they named his passion (for Mike Cartmell)

 

He said “culture is what exists
to ensure the dead are mourned”
and now the mourners gather their old
sorrow, seeing everything reduced
or cut from the same cloth that winds
the body, fresh from life’s folded tango
of agents and handlers, the solitudes
and simmering brotherhoods, the crash
of eyelids opening, of crows speaking to kings.

He was a sailor, no seaward wanton
thick inside a cloud of duty
but a soul free to represent himself
in these proceedings, a figure of storm-won
powers blown in the past’s secret fires
he forebore the gospel of repression
whose delicate scrollwork fell
like sky onto his unfainted hammer,
heard the upper partials of ecstasy
over the deep chime of death.

He wouldn’t read the world from lists,
as birds with wired maps erase
the particulars of their crossing,
but honored the secret lore, the rituals
of grief and their attendant markers,
the innumerable overlays of weathering
and reapplication, art as the making of dust
and perfect shavings. He thought
mourning too could be perfected, wanting only
a meta-language capable of shipwreck
and the froth of elemental
darkness over a sliding sea.

Peter Anson, Haileybury, Feb 20, 2014