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The Visit

ISSUE:  Summer 1992

An hour selecting the best talking book
to help him die: What was I thinking
as I dragged my finger across the spines—
Celestial Navigation, The Too of Weight Loss, Focusing—
 nothing but comfort,
a heating pad when the cramps knife in,
or tiger balm filling in for a lover’s hand,
the Darvon, the chocolate milk, whatever pads
the chute, why not a bandage on his eyes?

Infection rides his optic nerve, shooting
sparks like the swirling lights of heaven.
All that time on his hands and even
the large-print Bible looks like blurred Arabic.

(But if I could find a tale of gold straw
read by a god. . . .)

            He placed The Beet Queen
back on the dresser, an effort for him.
His waist was kindling, he couldn’t remember
who Walt Whitman was, or if he was 40
or 42. He said, “Bring me sweatshirts.
I can’t seem to stay warm in the morning.”

I pulled the itchy turtleneck over his head
too quickly, then had to gentle the sleeves
of his underwear back down his fragile arms.
To do the wrong thing out of love:
What makes anything but compost of death?
This does, this does, this does.


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