Lung cancer, you told me over the phone
last time we talked,
Type A, small cell, not the kind you get
from smoking, though you did smoke
years ago.  I stood
at my back door puffing and listening,
flicking ashes out into the snow.
The doctors would get it,
you told me.  No problem, really.
Chemotherapy and Prozac.
You’d whip it.  Damn
right, Pop.  Take care.
See you soon.

Two months ago,
two weeks after they scattered
your ashes off Asilomar Beach,
Mom called and said,

It was everywhere,
not just his lungs but in close
to his heart, too close to cut out, and up
into his brain, and so it was good
in a way that he died, but sad
how it happened:

I told them, his legs
are cold.  He needs his legs rubbed.
But they hauled him off for more
x-rays and tests, and I got upset.
I could see him convulsing.
And I knew he was cold.
He had such a fine mind.
I hated to think of that
going, of him going
on in such pain, so it was
a relief at the end. 

This is the first
time I’ve talked about it.

Well, we pitched all the small plastic bottles of pills
from your bathroom, emptied your hamper,
set your wallet, your keys, and your lucky
silver dollar on the glass-topped
living room table, cleaned out
your closets and dresser,
took most of it down to the Valley
Thrift Store. Saved a few mementos.

In your upper left hand drawer, that
Swiss Army knife, the one Grandma
gave you, it’s mine now. I carry it
everywhere. It’s spring now
here in Boise. I haven’t had
a cigarette for months. Sold
my old house, bought a new
one. The boys are doing
fine. I think Mom’s
doing better. Take
care, Pop.  See
you soon.

 

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