In the unquiet mind of misery
thoughts dash and dart
during the night. Sleep
becomes fitful, stopping, starting,
ending, as morning comes too early.
Even the birds are confused
singing spring songs in November.
The train rumbles in the distance.
Heartburn wakes me at 4:30, or
another nightmare. I am living
the nightmare. It’s the Big Chill,
without being funny. We are only
in our thirties. When did this start happening?
I am driving to see a friend who is dying.
Other friends will be there. Maybe it won’t
hurt as much as I think. It will. It does.
I’m reminded of other deaths
What do you mean?
Kelli’s sick, cancer.
Cancer? What kind?
(Mom has breast cancer,
Kathy had breast cancer,
They are fine)
What do the doctors say?
Five years, maybe less.
Speechless I sit on the bed.
Riley has black hair.
Kelli’s hair is gone. She wears a wig now.
Riley, three months and content
in the arms of a big stranger.
He cries knowing Riley may never know her mom.
How is Kelli doing?
She’s doing good.
Don’t’ ask, Don’t tell.
In the funeral home,
two survivors meet one.
Thank you for coming
to my father’s funeral.
Trout walks for Avon. The girls,
Dave and I Unload baggage.
Five trucks of baggage. 250 walkers
bags. My muscles ache for days.
Sitting around the fire, we chat.
Even now Kelli is terminal,
but we don’t know
She tires easily.
When I met her
We danced to 6AM.
Not even five years
Driving from the airport again:
Kelli’s been having seizures. Jamie can’t
work any more. We are going up Friday night
to make pottery.
We can’t go tonight.
She is not doing well.
What do you mean, not doing well?
How’s Kelli doing?
Not good, A matter of days.
We need to go see her.
I know, we’re going tomorrow.
I am driving to see a dying friend.
Better call Shawn. Voice-mail.
This is an awful thing to leave on voice-mail
Sixty degrees, sunny and cold.
The angle of the sun gives a false sense
of warmth this time of year.
I haven’t even thought of tears
until Shawn calls back.
I know this must be hard for you.
Choked up. I breath heavily
wishing to go back to Bethesda before
when things weren’t so wrong.
My god, she is sick. You can’t,
don’t, won’t cry in front of her
she might not know. she knows
don’t be stupid.
Dennis warbles hello.
Sparkle, smiles she lights up
she knows us, but can’t get the
blanket arranged on the couch.
She struggles stubbornly, Sit down
Kel, Can we get you anything.
She sleeps. No words are spoken.
Riley has blond hair now, curly and wild.
She’s two, or almost two.
Kelli smiles at the child. She gets up
talks to her daughter. Riley knows
where her esophagus is.
We have to leave. Hugs and kisses.
I whisper, I love you. She loves me too.
We know. We share the misery.
Dennis is crying in the kitchen.
Tears stream down our faces. We pull it
Better call mom.
Did you write something once about a match?
What? Why even spark the match?
Maybe. Mary Furlong gave Matthew
This paper and said,
I think this is Damien’s.
It looks like your handwriting.
Mom reads a poem long lost, forgotten.
Powerful words for a seventeen year old.
There must be an afterlife. Something more.
Life sparks and burns with fury, then flickers
and fades, if theres’ nothing more
why even strike the match?
Do you think Dad will be waiting for her?
(Dad, Kelli’s coming. Take care
of her for us. I know you will.
We’re taking care of mom and Jamie.
We’ll see you at the big one after
the fire fades.)