After a Death by Roo Borson
It’s been three years since. I remember you. I remember that day. I remember rushing to call a cab, because Papa can’t function enough to drive us to the hospital, sick with worry over you. I remember rushing to the elevator, the background noise disappearing as we stood there watching the light blink one number after another, like a countdown. I remember pressing the button repeatedly as if that would make it go faster. I remember the small white butterfly that fluttered above our heads before finally settling at a corner of the door. There were never any butterflies before in the hospital, and you can trust me on this: I’ve passed through that lobby so many times. But that day—the moment I saw it, those little white wings—I knew you will go.
I remember standing at the foot of your bed. I remember looking at the machine because I couldn’t bear to look at your face: those faint beeps that look a bit like a river passing through some small stones. I wanted a spike—I wanted a mountain of your heartbeat, forming there, saying, alive, alive. Instead you gave us that moment, the one where your breath goes, the one where the line goes so long, the one where the sea and the horizon meet forever.
I remember the small wrinkle of skin between your thumb and your forefinger, I remember walking around the hospital crying and shameless, I remember wishing I could hold my father, I remember—
Three years since. When I see a man on a street, riding a bike, I give him a small nod and think of you on your way home.
With all my love,
After a Death
Seeing that there’s no other way,
I turn his absence into a chair.
I can sit in it,
gaze out through the window.
I can do what I do best
and then go out into the world.
And I can return then with my useless love,
because the chair is there.
This is from Night Walk, Selected Poems by Roo Borson, published by Oxford University Press, 1994.