3. The Persistence of Everything

Nothing goes away. It’s all still here,
which accounts for the room’s chattering clutter:
on the boat to San Carlos, the swaying hammock
above David cannot figure out how to enter
to sleep and his Spanish too poor to ask anyone
(Caroline’s daughter amused at his silliness when he tells the story)–
here it is, the hammock in the living room.
And then bathing in Lake Nicaragua at sunset,
watching Ernesto bathing in such a palette that
walking out he trails colors onto the bank.
Today is the anniversary of the March on Washington, fifty years ago,
and he asks his old friend Nelson what he remembers
of a brief walk at lunch that summer he is working at the FCC.
They listen to the great speech on TV. God, 1963!
So much to read, so much to think about, hoping to get arrested.
He doesn’t have dreams much, much less
a dream, most nights passing fitfully like the scenes
outside a speeding subway’s windows,
grimy and indistinct, but we feel there’s something
out there if the train would just slow down,
if life would just slow down, we ought to know.
The first time David visits New York with college friends,
they get lost on the subway and end up in Harlem,
which frightens these white kids, a night of misting rain
and helpless streetlights, but later he is working there,
in Harlem, in bright streets where people know him.
Life in chemo brain never stops to rest.
David and Caroline lying on their sides face
to face breathe each other’s breath, exchanging
cellular imaginings, her breath like a Japanese tea,
sencha, as he writes in a poem for her. And he sees at once
that this is how he is dying, face to face with
her, breathing in and out until the air leaves him
for good, and when she inhales she takes
what’s left of him finally into her heart.

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