The light is a strange bright dream entering
the ICU. As I pass each room, curtains flutter;
the escape of breath. It certainly can’t be true
but all I can think is that everyone is good and dying.
As good as dead.
I’m family, I explain to a purse-lipped nurse
as she walks with other intents from your empty room.
It doesn’t matter. Unsure of myself, I begin discarding
napkins and wrappers and bottles, the only evidence
of any visitors. Over this mess, I weep.
Hovering near the bed (a sterile cushion of white air
between us), I avoid looking. But I remember you believe
in the Lutheran way and so I murmur the long-version
Lord’s Prayer, holding your hand and I am a child again.
On the phone, Ma said the others said they found
dozens of empty bottles of “gut-rot” vodka and gin
at the house. My only thought: you could play the hell
out of a drum kit and all they can see and say right now
is how fucking sorry you and your choice of liquor were.
We would sometimes get drunk together. (But I don’t
need to explain that it was okay.) At summer fests,
you’d buy me a solo cup margarita for every two
of your crappy beers. Another time in a bar you laughed,
damn near startled but proud as I belted out Eagles lyrics.
Hey, kid, what do you know about the Sad Café?
The bite of rubbing alcohol surrounds us, its insistent,
insidious cleanliness puncturing everything like a migraine.
Your hands are heavy, sallow and forgive me, I call it a night.
The steady beat of your collapsing over and over again
was there, I know. We all know it from our own and
remorse is the broken glass we’ll always fall on,
the notes we hear as we hit the pavement every time.