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Night Dogs

ISSUE:  Autumn 1998
You have given up sleep,
the lesions in your brain
turning you into a land of bat
flying, flitting all night
when we can barely walk.
I am tired. Your wife is tired.
Your son, the nurse,
all your friends together
can hardly find the strength
to feed and bathe you,
keep you from falling
down the stairs or wandering
out the door one night
when you no longer know
who or what you are.

Night and day,
dear friend, you talk, talk, talk,
asking if we own
smirky dogs or synagogues
and which do we prefer?
The words swirling recklessly
in your irradiated brain.
Yes or no, I say.
No matter which,
you’ll ask again
a dozen times this hour.
Your conversations now
a parody of every one
we had in that other life,
that half-remembered healthiness,
that came before the cancer.
That is now.

Late at night, sometimes
you do not even know
what objects are,
a hanger, a door becomes
a thing too frightening to name,
even if you had the words.
And your own dog,
tired of jumping off the couch
each time you come
careening through the room,
growls, not smirks, at you.

I will not write
a poem where I wish you dead.
I will not. Yet,
at four in the morning
when you are screaming
at the stripes
on your clean sheets,

I cannot help but think,
I would trade anything
for a moment’s quiet.


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