We Talk

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We talk about the way you build wooden boats with your hands,
and the way the sun shines off the water when we canoe across the lake.
And we talk about the snow in the winter and the way the snowflakes fall in the quiet.
We talk about the way that you rode an elephant in Thailand along the side of a cliff,
and the elephant put one foot in front of the other so he kept on the trail,
and the way I went dogsledding in Alaska, felt the dogs pull and heard the trees whisper blue.
We talk about the summers of sun, sand and waves, and how we grew with salt water in our veins. And we talk of our smiles and our failures and the lessons we learned, tomorrow’s plans
and time that we hold in the palm of our hands. We talk until the coffee grows cold and the night grows wings, until the words have words no more, but our eyes keep talking.
We don’t talk about your aneurysm that might kill you tonight, or tomorrow, and we don’t talk about my brain tumor that’s growing as we speak.
We don’t talk about it.

Ending Up Alone

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“I will end up alone he says,” and in the silent pause,

so many doors close. She collects the know before the feel,

cancels the gray-haired couple, arm-in-arm,

rocking late days on the porch of music. Promises

to stay, believe, carry him to night, those are blown away,

stripped like maples’ autumn color, disappear like summer

days. Perhaps he chose alone to spare her in some way.

Though the layer of fallen leaves and torn up plans weighs

deeply through her bones, she carries pieces of him with her.

He will never be alone.

The Girl in the Purple Dress (for June)

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Her name was June, but she left in May,

before the sunflowers could bloom and ask

for more days.  In the stone church, whispers

spoke of the claim: cancer, a brain tumor.

Stolen summer laid her cold, draped in flowers

taken in their bloom. They would die soon. 

I kept my head bowed, listened for June,

waited for the preaching, sobbing, and hymns to end.

In the front of the church, in a purple dress

with a black bow in her hair, June’s daughter sat;

I knew her well. She looked straight ahead and made

no sound, and that is why I kept my head down.

And when the cars were gone, and I was alone

I wept, and I wept to the church and through June.

The last months of her life, when the brain tumor

grasped and haunted her head, June had changed.

And her daughter, so many days, so many different

colored bows, would tell stories of the crazy things

her mom would do and stay. And it wasn’t June.

It wasn’t your Mom. I cry because we have lost

part of summer, but I weep for her girl in the purple dress,

and the June she remembered as she sat on those steps.