Hearsay Song

They are dying out and I want to reach them before they are gone
Not that I know what I would say to them when I get there
Their songs rippling beneath temporary sky
As I approach, as I am doing now
Even though I am nowhere near wherever they are
Swirling in blossoming dust and dreaming they are not
 
They are dying out and I want to reach them before they are gone
Just as I want to reach myself before I too am gone
Another blossom sliding into slime
What notes do I hear drenched in fiery sky
Are these ghosts rising up before me
Or gasps of dust near a lake covered by algae
 
They are dying out and I want to reach them before their names vanish
Before they become ghosts dying in pink algae and ruined vowels
Not that I know what their songs say
Telling sting of monstrous human torrent
Wheeling above burning story of lost lives
Tapering branches of smoke, red and yellow leaves falling
 
They are dying out and I want to reach them
Before my name joins theirs in plastic matrimony
Before a blue-eyed undertaker powders my nose
Or I turn to powder in squirt gun of unprofitable insects
Secrets folded away never rinsed in scum corner
History erasing traces of its nothing new

John Yau, "Hearsay Song." Copyright © 2016 by John Yau. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (2016)