for J.A.Q (1984-1999) and A.E.P. (1895-1990)
Wading in mock swagger, a blast of fire
rose from your lungs. Rage so surprised faint breath
it caught in the throat, burned retreat to ash
gray pallor on your lips, left you a ghost
kicking round the attic; washed in the net
of my memory, as is all that leaves
me struggling to comprehend and leaves
a disconnect: like a gun does not fire
but a man falls dead just the same. A net
loss tallied. Here the body, but no breath
on the mirror which never sees your ghost,
no matter how you prance: wind in tall ash
tree limbs. But breeze is not seen, only ash
carried by the self-same breeze, or the leaves
from the bough—the story of the wind ghost
written by its burden: red, yellow. Fire
falling from a sky too full of its breath
to note the loss of something without net
weight. Still, the sky hangs webbed with clotting net
of voices rising, unseen, from an ash
can painter’s wildest dream one night a breath
away from death. He woke to table leaves
laden with food as a steam engine fire
cooled in the field and braves chanted their ghost
dance rites to save the same; then drowsed to ghost
words dancing through ether without a net
from building to building where once stood Fire-
That-Knocks-Man-Down who remembered the ash
and ochre on warriors who smoked the leaves
of peace, if that peace was only a breath
before the peace was broken in a breath-
taking lie no longer shocking—the ghost
of many a lie before, written on leaves
the white man turned. Snare the bird in a net,
Once again turned round and brought down to ash
thrown upon the head, wailing, waiting for fire.
Fire the clay, toss the salt and rouse hot breath.
Ash gathered underneath: wood’s only ghost.
Net cast deep for fish? Raise but rotting leaves.
This is a sestina I’m not as happy with, but will see what everyone else thinks.