GOD-WITH-US, by Reginald Shepherd

after Jean Valentine

What will I call you
when you are gone?
How will I know your name?
Little star, reflection
on the Sea of Galilee,
a lantern in the wood, half-hid,
half-seen?
reflecting on what can’t be
touched, be known?
And the sheen of milk
across the sky, the galaxy poured out
like me, true sky, false dawn,
and a young woman’s nipple,
star of milk, star of a
nursing child’s mouth, my
child, my lord, whoever
you may be today, tonight
which will not end, a cup
passed to me, from which I may
or may not drink, half-empty
star, still asleep by now?
And your small body, Emmanuel,
how small my heart
to fit inside yours)
lie there, pearled, asleep…
How I want to believe.
(a pearl, an irritant).

* * *

Posted by his partner on his blog, this was the final poem that Reginald wrote while in the hospital, two weeks before he lost his life to cancer.

While I’d be lying if I said I was a long-time fan, this is quite honestly the only poem of his that I’ve read so far. But I can honestly say that his essay in Poets & Writers several months ago, on the subject of writing poetry, was touching and inspiring. From it I was struck by an overwhelming sense of sincerity, and warmth.

I’m reminded at the moment of the words shared quite recently with me by a poet I am a long-time fan of and admire quite a bit; he told me, ‘Literary people tend to spend a lot of energy pretending to hate each other.’ Reginald was the kind of writer I can’t imagine hating anyone.

Though I may not know his poetry, I do think I know how much he cared about it, about what poetry means, or at least can mean, and his voice on that very subject will be truly missed. His poetry, at least, is still very much with us.

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2 thoughts on “GOD-WITH-US, by Reginald Shepherd”

  1. I just read Itinerary, the chapbook of Shepherd’s John Gallaher was sending out in lieu of flowers. It was very good.

    “Pretending to hate each other” – yes. Of course.

    Looking forward to seeing you!

  2. I guess too many of us find the reasons to hate; others spend a lot of time being oblivious to their creation of those reasons and putting them in places for the others to find.

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