One Day and the Next
By Alan Gann

The thing life teaches you is that people die.
One day you are in your favorite restaurant
sharing pad thai, tofu satay, wide noodles
with jalapenos and tomatoes. Wanna see
what's playing at the Inwood? and the next
you're deciding between caskets and cremation.
When's the memorial service? Don't send
flowers. Plane tickets and making sure the cats
get fed, answering what happened over and over
and over till it drones out like a mantra.
Saying thank you for the casseroles, pecan pies,
loaves of fresh bread. Saying thank you
just when you think you'll never feel like eating
again. Her best friend is out of town till Saturday.
Who else did I forget to call? That's her Mother
on the phone and she won't stop crying.
You don't know what to say. You never got along
that well when her daughter was alive and this
intimacy is too awkward now. Suit clean? Shoes
shined? Which shirt? Which tie? Pants too tight.
I need a haircut. And then it's over.
People start to leave you alone again. Each day
fewer cards are mixed in with her magazines,
the bills and ads. Each day fewer of those calls
with the embarrassed I'm so sorry
I hadn't heard. Only close friends still ask
how's it going. Thank you notes get written. Work
becomes busy and six months pass.
You're driving nowhere in particular, when a song
(not any special song, but just some song) comes on
the radio. You have to pull over, sob out the knot
in your gut. And only because you can't stay there,
on the shoulder forever, you crank the car back up,
pull out into traffic and choose which way to go.


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