Your postcard came: a snap of Mediterranean blue
and bright chatter ending: How are you?
How am I? How are you is what I want to know -
last month checked over, stitched up, blasted with chemo
and now adrift, floating through days of slow sun
with one part of life finished, the next not yet begun.
And something else. I want to know too why the hell
last time you came to visit me at home I couldn’t tell
how much better I might have made you feel
(no, ‘loved’, not “better”; “better” is too genteel)
if, instead of slipping out into the garden quietly
to pick apples from our wet-leaved, sagging tree
- you said you felt like sleeping - I had just stayed close
and kept you talking. What came over me? Did I suppose
we’ll always have enough time left for that?
The second I had propped
my ladder gingerly against the tree and crept
inside its brittle globe - hold tight! a child again! -
and started rattling down the apple-rain,
I looked aside and found your watchful face
inside the window like a silhouette of ice
and melting - skin becoming water and then air
before I stretched to pull the apples near,
the apples swelling air and water in their new-made skin.
How am I? I shall tell you then.
I’m wishing you were here and, well, that’s all.
Not thinking how I climbed while you were waiting for the fall.
From Magma No. 8 (Winter 1996)