I finally had the courage to turn on Kurt’s computer in September. He had passed away in June, and Steve Huff, the editor and publisher of Tiger Bark Press, had asked me to find Kurt’s poetry files, in order to publish his posthumous collection, I’ve Come This Far to Say Hello: Poems Selected and New. A mellow sun filled his room, the curtains open as he always left them—the small, bronze abstract sculpture we had bought at an artist’s market in Provence next to the pile of books, Jim Shepard’s You Think That’s Bad, Edmund Wilson’s Axel’s Castle, Charles Simic’s My Noiseless Entourage, and a bilingual edition of François Villon’s The Legacy & the Testament, by his reading chair.
As I sat at his desk, a graying woman stared back at me from the black mirror of Kurt’s computer monitor, her left hand clasped against her lips at the thought of opening his files. I turned the computer on and, though filled with hesitation, soon discovered a file called “Almost Poems,” which was comprised of about eighty to ninety poems, all in alphabetical order—some in very early stages of draft, some unfinished, others almost done. I read through them avidly, one poem after another. Hundreds of lines I had never seen:
I remember standing knee deep in the ocean, as close as I could from the black, split rock next to which I had dispersed most of Kurt’s ashes.
I can hear Kurt’s voice when I read these words. And I’m transported by this field of snow to the years we lived in Snowmass Village, Colorado, sometimes cut off from the main roads by snowstorms and white outs that lasted for days, and for which we were secretly thankful.
Kurt and I loved listening to music together. I remember often listening to the Romanian Women’s Choir, or to Chants D’Auvergne by Canteloube. We’d sit, not saying much, sipping wine, and, yes, for an instant, feeling ageless, and willing, and warm.
Then I opened “The Kiss.”
Read it, re-read it, read it again.
I don’t quite remember how fast or blurry-eyed my drive was to the Arroyo Burro beach, about five minutes from our house. But I do remember standing knee deep in the ocean, as close as I could from the black, split rock next to which I had dispersed most of Kurt’s ashes. It was high tide—I couldn’t quite reach ‘his’ rock. And I remember I very quietly wept there, elated, broken-hearted, thankful and full of sorrow.
That kiss I failed to give you.
How can you forgive me?
The kiss I would have spent on you is still
there, within me. It will probably die there.
But it will be the last of me to die.
The Kiss is a bimonthly series curated by Brian Turner.
The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers is available from Norton in February 2018.