True Friends

For Pierre and Jen

True friends
are those who downplay
your protestations
of seasonal depression,
drawing you out
on the shunned holiday
and its grim barrage
of hurled presents,

who ply you with roast beef
and good cheer;
good talk, too,
of all our friends
who are sliding to their ruin
save thee and me;

who, gleaning your thoughts
as moonlight glistens
on nearby snow mounds,
propose a midnight walk

through a densely-peopled place
where not one voice is caroling,
not one wine drunk reels,
and dead trees worthy
of Kaspar David Friedrich
thrust vine-clogged branch
into the lunar orb’s
eye-socket, a tramp
to the glazed and silent pond
of the North Burial Ground.

If there be Yule or Wassail,
raise cups
at Nicholas Brown’s
bilingual obelisk,
the Latin side well-lit
for night-bird reading,

or tip your cap
to the derelict women’s
Last Home on Earth
(the potter’s field
of the workhouse), or heave
the old year’s slave-chains
into the mailbox vault
of John Brown’s shattered
table-top tombstone.

Too chill for even
the flitter of bat,
the night is warm despite,
the august society
of graveyard walkers
our aristocracy.

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