During a Son’s Dangerous Illness

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You could die before me –
I’ve known it
always, the
dreaded worst, ‘unnatural’ but
in the play
of matter, matter and
growth and
My sister Philippa died
twelve years before I was born –
the perfect, laughing firstborn,
a gift to be cherished as my orphaned mother
had not been cherished. Suddenly:
death, a baby

cold and still.
Parent, child – death ignores
protocol, a sweep of its cape brushes
this one or that one at random
into the dust, it was
not even looking.
What becomes
of the past if the future
snaps off, brittle,
the present left as a jagged edge
opening on nothing?
Grief for the menaced world – lost rivers,
poisoned lakes- all creatures, perhaps,
to be fireblasted
off the
whirling cinder we
loved, but not enough…
The grief I’d know if I
lived into
your unthinkable death
is a splinter
of that selfsame grief,
infinitely smaller but
the same in kind:
one stretching the mind’s fibers to touch
eternal nothingness,
the other
tasting, in fear,
the desolation of