My companion in the room reads books
and watches soap operas.
Surrounded by his cheap novels,
he glances at me over his Walgreen’s reading glasses.
He has no need of biography.
I find the “cheaters” here and there,
in the shop, next to the band saw —
on top of the convertible’s air cleaner
or down by the boat lift.
He rarely speaks, coughs once in awhile,
like the man at the front desk of a motel who wants service.
He was standing by the curb as we rode away in the black limo to the cemetery,
when Joey Roberts died in the fourth grade.
Joey wouldn’t feel the breeze in his hair,
hear the splash of cottonwood leaves,
or feel the lush cascade of a warm wind on a June day.
I saw him in pictures — in the shadows, of the gaping doors of the C5As
returning from Viet Nam where duty and honor
became the dead bastard children of men with no skin in the game.
Once on a winding country road,
he jerked the steering wheel out of my hand as a pulp truck swung into my lane.
“It’s not time,” he said.
I knew when he came for others —- walking slowly into the center of a room,
felt – not seen.
And as he took a wearied, worn hand — he left us with a shell,
a mystery seen, but not understood.
We go for walks now and then — through the naked birch and aspen,
before spring’s flowering,
or when the clammy earth is cool on a humid morning,
when spruce and pine apportion their scent.
Then he might ask, “Do you think you’re ready?”
I stop, turn to him, smile and say,
“You know damned well the moment is of your choosing.
But I will not wait in the room with the novels and soap operas.
No, I will meet you on the road, on a hill,
on a bike with the wind in my face.
Or on a ski trail with ice crystals suspended in the air ,
by the river — in the woods — deep in the cedars.
And when we meet, you will enshroud me, or I you —
I will have then known the fullness of love’s bequests and sorrows.
I will not be sitting on my ass waiting in a room!