“Most suicides happen shortly before dawn.”
From “Bitter Fame” by Anne Stevenson

I think we will meet again old friend–
You who took a quick way out
(Who ever dared call it an easy way?)
In the darkest hour, on a night
Of endless, cold rain.

We went to school together
Worked in the same factory
Played baseball on the weekends.
A decade apart we married the same woman.
Even that scarcely rocked our friendship
(Although I could have done without
The “hand-me-down” jokes.)

For years we had little use
Or need for the medical profession.
You used to say, “I’ll only see a doctor
If it really hurts, or I’m really scared.”

Spitting up blood is scary all right
And the docs confirmed what you
Already knew—lung cancer, stage three.

I took you on a long hiking trip.
Your only special request was
“Don’t bring a camera.”

We talked very little
But there was a linkage,
At night we would stare into the fire
Hour after hour.

Afterward, back home
You called it “martyrdom by injection”
And you rode a carousel
Of pills, vomiting, pain, and confusion.

Confusion was the worst.
The only complaint I ever heard was:
“Sometimes I lose my grip.”

The funeral was a cold affair
Of his and my wives,
Ex-wives, wannabees, baby mommies,
And a confusing welter of children.
It made me think
Of the hawker at a baseball game shouting,
“You can’t tell the players
Without a program.”

To my utter disinterest,
I found I had inherited
All your fishing gear and guns,
Even the one you used at the end.
Odd: I thought it would have been
Police evidence or something.

I put the stuff away.

The years soldiered on,
So did I.

Until today: I was diagnosed
With lung cancer, stage three.
Doesn’t that beat all!

Where, where, where did I pack your gear?

I think we will meet again old friend.


MAY 2016

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