for Michael Cohen
When I heard Michael was gone, I went downstairs and sat at the kitchen table. A half dozen oranges in a glass bowl, leathery red pomegranates from the farmer’s market. Everything had a sheen to it: the fruit, the blond wood, even the battered linoleum. Light bounced off fullness, just like the art teacher said, only more so. I put water on and when it whistled made tea, the same as I had a year before, when I’d played Boggle with Michael at another kitchen table, battling it out with banal and azure and squeeze while Helen egged us on. Last time I’d spoken to him was late summer. I needed the name of some rare bird for a poem. A species that was endangered would be good. He told me the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, had lately been spotted in the drowned swamplands of Louisiana, looking ghostly. When I asked about his health, he said, “Not good, but I can’t talk now,” by which I knew that Jesse, their young son, was in the room — Jesse, to whom he wanted to give the world, watching birds with binoculars, taking walks, reading stories; and sure enough, “I have to fix his dinner,” and that was all.