for Jack Hirschman (1933-2021)

The words always came running out of your mouth
Tumbling, galloping
Pushing against one another as they took the final turn
The last hundred meters
Where form is lost 
& everyone becomes a futurist
Sacred words split into syllables & break apart
Yours never had wings affixed to them
Only the hammer & sickle 
Harnessed with gumshoe & printing press
Long gray hair alighting from your form
& that gait you had
As if you’d been riding motorcycles all night long
Bowlegged, rickety even 
Probably from kicking fascists in your sleep 
& the other death-headed sorts
You had the sparkle, loud & lavish laughter
Bellowing even
A clamor to stoke awake the fires inside
& push against the fulcrum of the dreadful state
In time, overtaken by the glow & tether of your arcanes
Where life mingled with apparitions 
It’s how you made memory & the present inseparable
Obsecrating all those pages turned 
Dog-eared & brittle after a stretch
To lay words before us, like crumbs
Four thousand pages later
Leaving a richer trail
I remember the raddled years
When you lived like a pauper
Grinning wide & showing off your crooked teeth
More beautiful than any others
The final words I whispered to you
That was wonderful 
Are still ringing in your ears
Though vibrating waves of compression
& rarefactions are dust now
Just in case, let me say it again
That was wonderful

Copyright © 2022 by Matt Gonzalez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.