When I learned that my friend’s husband
was dying, I went to comfort her—but that was my need;
she couldn’t talk about it directly. So,
we talked about how the grass wouldn’t grow
in one spot of her yard, the real estate slump,
how the mail was coming later and later now
on our street. I looked at her. Just looked at her.
For someone who usually knows what to say,
I was barren.
I said, We could go from A to Z
and never find the right words.
Then, she began: A is for the absolute beauty of life.
I was awed by her ability to still feel that way. I said,
B is for not bearing things alone. She responded,
C is for cancer, this fucker. And there we went,
all the way to Z, where I chose zebra,
and then said that nothing, especially death,
is black and white.
Published in CALYX, 2016, and in Marin Poetry Center Anthology 2018
This poem may not be reproduced without the author's permission.