I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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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,
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.