For Barbara Ransom Jopson 1915-1957
Yours, Barbara, was a literal way of death.
You were defaulted by the failure of your breath.
To fox the taxing of your faltering breath
you schooled yourself for years to snare
a reasonable surety of air . . .
not surplus air to waltz or to embrace
just marginal sips to stay, with grace,
alight, and spark the hovering dark of death
with bright unwavering speech. You flogged your breath
down your dogged days and spent that wilting breath
in dialogue that burnished us with your
ungarnishable gold where we before
had counterfeited in our brass or gilt. Your art
was alchemy wrought by a sleight of heart.
That art will lend us gold beyond your death
and round the bend of our last breath
when we like you end, as we must, all out of breath.