On February 3, 2008, I lost the most important person in my life, my twin brother. Even now, several years later, I can not speak of this loss in any terms that allow me to reconcile it with what is a lesser life. He was a painter, had always remained one, despite the cost this country levies upon individuals who wish to live by different standards and expectations–and with different ambitions. Other artists who struggle know this well enough. In the terrible months following Keith’s death, I struggled to understand on the only level I could at that time–that of poetry. Poetry is much more than grief. Poet Robert VanderMolen points out in his poem, Skin, “Dutch poets are called Dichters, which means Thickeners–to thicken language and experience. . . . There is also the thought, a more recent one . . . Of poets as pipe fitters, connecting pipes into a maze . . .”

Death is a maze and any translation of it is terrible–for those left behind. I offer here a collection of ‘quick’ poems. Personal poems. Imperfect poems. Poems with a license to be only–and exactly–what they are. It’s like a free pass. I can’t be judged.

Keith admired the art of Haiku. I found among his possessions a book of poetry by the Japanese poet, Basho. It is called, “On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho.” Lucien Stryk does the translation. A number of poems were circled. I don’t know when exactly–or for what reason–he had singled out these exact poems. But in reading them I know he is there inside the poems. Of these poems two motifs seem to always be there: evening/autumn & crows. The crow was one of the central motifs in my brother’s paintings. And autumn–no matter how beautiful–seems also to signal the inevitability of death.

Poem 52, however, was not circled, but underneath it, my brother–and it is his handwriting–penciled in his own translation. No doubt he had come across this version in some other source of Basho’s translated work. But his preference seems most relevant. His translation reads:

On a dead branch
a crow settles
Autumn evening.

Translations are journeys. Grief is a journey. The road is long and one never finds its end. One simply makes stops along the way.