in the NEW ORLEANS REVIEW

Saturday, the 19th or the 20th

Surgery is scheduled. I got the green light.
They’ll slice me open next Friday.
He says it will be dangerous.
I could die. The main worry
will be post-op blood clots.
One of those and I’d be a goner.

Are you ready?
Ready? Ready for what?
Ready for surgery? Ready for death?
The doctor enters, holds my hand,
and asks if I’d like a little something
to relieve the pain. I’ll be dead in a few hours.

Are you ready to go?
What an absurdity to say you’re
in your prime. You’re not in good
shape, even if you can hit the ball.
The Golden Years are over. When
her mother died at 93, Andrea
took steps to sue the hospital. She thought
her mother was good for another ten.

By ninety, it’s time. You take a private
berth on the Silver Liner. Hang up
the Do Not Disturb sign and lie back.
Just don’t do it before reading Tolstoy.
Be sure to listen to Mahler. Catch a play
on the London’s West End and be sure
to have a pastrami at Langer’s.

There’s an endless list of things
to do, and you mustn’t get off at
the wrong station. You’ll be on the
Express. If you could turn back the clock,
where would you stop? At ten?
Or when you were at your most
sexually potent? Would you like to play
short-stop one last time or would you
prefer to see the Grand Canyon? Some
would like the chance to say hi to a loved-
one. One last chance to be disappointed.

Sondheim sees our joy mixed with sadness.
He even remembers to include a little desperation.
You’re in your tux and feel like crying. That sounds
just about right. If only you could pee again
without wincing. How delightful to review your
declensions. How about re-watching all
your favorites, beginning with Bertolucci?
And, wouldn’t it be grand to pat someone’s ass
one last time, and be thanked for it?

The surgeon drops by my room for a visit.
He eases himself on to the floor so we can
speak eye to eye; I realize he’s a real
human being. What a relief. We chat and he
brings me up to date. We review my options,
and he explains the risks. I rest my hand
on his knee and have a realization.
He will be my last friend.

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