A BRIEF GEOGRAPHY OF GOODBYES
Everyone who knows grief as it settles onto chests,
humid as a jungle, thick as fog on a heath,
understands that goodbyes can be a gift. A brief
cushion to ease the long emptiness ahead.
As I write this, my friend’s husband is dying
in hospice care in New York. He surrendered
after waging a fierce battle with leukemia that,
for a merciful time, he seemed to be winning.
Each arc of loss beams wider than celestial skies
on clear summer nights. His young grandchildren
gather at a grassy hospital garden to say goodbye.
Siblings fly from far-flung homes to do the same.
My sister and I stood at our mother’s bedside
watching lights on monitors fade and fizzle out.
Without evidence of audibility, we still sang to her,
believing emigration is aided by a sound track.
In Gaza, bereaved households are less blessed.
A fine whine of rockets the only warning before
a family’s cardamom tea and künefe splatters
like a Pollock canvas across living room walls.
In Delhi, breaths come to a close after failed searches
for oxygen – it seems there is no price that can be paid
for air though grieving loved ones would mortgage
their own lung capacities if currencies allowed.
In North Carolina, police kill a man as he tries
to drive away from death. His story forms a pattern
recurrent as an Escher etching. Each morning’s only
question – will this day mark memory’s final day.
COVID focused attention toward microscopic gestures –
the tensile strength of touch, the graceful creases
of a laugh line, the thrill of whispered thank yous.
Such gifts may allow us to survive our diminishments.
"A Brief Geography of Goodbyes" was published
in the New Verse News on May 21, 2021.