When you return to something you love, it’s already beyond repair. You wear it broken.
— James L. White
I loved her once, loved being smothered by her touch, her soft voice calling me to bed. The men that loved her are gone, too. I’ve never watched anyone die before, never waited for angels to unleash their singing, unable to pray for hope or life; for my mother’s suffering. She twists in misery, reaches through years of regret, a common life at its end, presses her frail hand in mine, begs forgiveness for a life lived wrong. Some days it seems poetry can be woven from anything at all: sex, dusk opening its wings above me, or a mother on her deathbed trying to say I love you for the first time. I read Cavafy to comfort us: I do not dare whisper / what I wish to tell you: / that to live without you / Is an unbearable penalty for me. . . . What kind of bullshit is that? she asks, laughs, turns from me to her oxygen tank. She says she’s ready to go, ready for whatever comes next. I sit in a rocker next to her bed, begin a slow, contemplative rhythm, discover comfort in the wild dance she spun in bars, how she held me in her arms above the lights of a dusty jukebox, let me pick the songs, promised me a daddy by midnight.