I got a job and left for good, relieved as youngEliot to part from the murder and middling mudof the Mississippi, its ritual riverbed unburials,unsettled silt that clots at the heart. You hadpromised to retire, settle your affairs, and joinme in New England in a house by the ocean.
(How selfish, then and now, my love for you,oh woman more than mother or lover and both.)
Because there is no escape from the wheel,no quota for how much one soul must freight,infection began to roil in your unfeeling flank.And I wasn’t there to see you, naked. Too late,surgeons chased its septic reach, coring deepinto bone. You forbade me at your bedside:
Work and write, chérie; it isn’t yet time for worry.
I begged. On the phone, your gulley laugh, oldsmoker’s warble, balm of your voice reachingfrom the morass you felt to be your sinking body.
The nurse assured me there was no sign of distressor harm, your flesh still warm. Atheist, anarchic,no barefoot Jesus on your horizon, you took onelast spin down Kingshighway where you stood,where you strode from that steaming wreck:leggy, lone, owning no one but yourself.