Below is the poem I'll be reading for the tribute Monday. It's from Irene's last book Vivid Companion. An interview with her from earlier this spring can be found here. The poem "Fame" can be found here. Another poem, "Atavistic", was featured on NPR's the Writer's Almanac in April 2005.
Full Moon: Sitting Up Late at My Father’s Bedside
What can I say. The moon looms in the nighttime sky
with brilliance, as it does. But we are going to touch it,
and then it will go away. The animals on earth
are breathing, but someone takes their hearts
and puts them into broken human bodies.
What can I say to those people? You took the heart
of a chimp: you found you could do it,
and you did? Secrets come out of the heart,
and nowhere else. We don’t know how.
What can I say when my father is dying,
with his new eyes and his new heart.
His mind is like a flapping line of laundry,
clothing full of wind. How can I speak
about the babble of his speech? His saying
does not go from here to there, it’s only here.
Out of the dog came five pups, slick wet packets,
each different. They grew at different rates.
Some slept, two leapt around all day.
What can I say about their secret selves,
their paws, their separate ways of walking?
What can be said about their natures, and
their flawed and perfect lives? I gave
them away. They have a new trajectory and
I’m still here. I think about them every day.
My father’s manner is the same as it was
when he was sane. Senility’s a secret, too.
It isn’t vague to him. I see intensity in all
he misconstrues, —I think he misconstrues.
The night is brilliant, and the moon’s too close.
It calls him out: to where, I cannot say.