(Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur)
I will lose more weight, growing down as I grew up.
Then I will die in my front room in the early afternoon
While an old woman walks by and sees me fall.
She will walk on and tell no one at all.
I will have the time while I am falling to dwell at last
On what I have done and what I failed to do
Before I crumple and begin
The process of my wasting.
Outside the window through which old women look
I will see falling just before I fall my old friend
Whose heart gave out as he in his turn fell, oh too soon!
One morning among strangers on the way to work.
They stood by watching, remembering what they saw
To tell the ladies, gathered like the end of harvest straw,
In the evening over drinks and dinner.
They would gasp and clutch each others white arms;
“Such things chill and shouldn’t be said
Before we have sent the children up to bed,”
They will whisper fearfully, and just as fearfully will ask,
“What else then happened on the way to work?”
Closer to the end of all my lifelong falling I will watch
Every sunset and smile at every crystal raindrop
And hear the last laugh burst from the lips
Of the one who thinks he got away with all of it.
I will have finished falling then and begin
My rest and decomposition, leaving
Nothing that I brought in, but my slippers,
And for my son my favorite shirt.
I, I must, have my last thoughts, there
On the floor beneath the window and the woman
The pictures on the wall the light fixture
In the hall by the door I opened once
To you standing on the granite step,
Timid in your summer clothes, questions
On your face not asked or answered
In all those years since we had parted.
We ate a pretty lunch in the shade of ancient oaks
And spoke lightly of the heaviness of age
On trees and people we both knew and have known;
Inconsequential words off the top of our heads,
Thoughts subliming into a slight breeze
Hardly worth the effort to give them voice
While little brown wrens whistled on a limb
And the neighbor’s dog across the street
Beat its head against the chain link fence;
Frustrated again by a laughing squirrel.
Your wife looked at the roses and mine
Took away the dishes from our meal.
Once again you stood outside the house.
Stood on the steps. Moved to the car.
Complained about the aches assailing you,
Assailing both of us, as I listened
From a surprising distance in so short a time
To your hearty laugh, your thanks for
The meal and conversation, your promises to return
Again and soon and your final goodbye.