On the phone, at a gas station, in our dreams
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He’s been after me
For years now.
Once when I was a boy
Sliding down the riverbank
He got one hand around my ankle.
While muddy water lapped and surged
I scrambled along a gnarled root
And hauled myself to the upper bank,
Trembling with terror.
“Just a trial balloon,” he said cheerfully,
Lighting a cigar.
So many other times, mountain climbing
And ready to take the wrong step
Or lazing in the milky foam of Pacific Ocean surf
Or driving fast at four A.M. ready to fall asleep
And smash against some anonymous
And then the tests he puts you through:
The scans and probes and liquids measured
For cancer’s black sand, for the leaking
Glue of inflammation; the number of times
He taps you for another round
Of dodge ball, firing one disease after another
Past your head as you dance
And jump, still alive.