She said she didn’t recognize me anymore,
that there are bullet holes in the swing set at Graceland,
something about her cat with twelve toes,
and cancer, she said she had cancer.
I watched her shoulder twitch as she spoke.
She never took her eyes off the Hollywood freeway
as we passed the Farmer John meat plant, ripe with summer heat,
then she turned up the radio and I started south on the 705.
She didn’t say another word until we got to Long Beach.
We went to Shoreline Village, to where the carousel used to be,
and I said it was sold to a place up north while she was gone.
She walked in a circle, counterclockwise, in the old wheelhouse
and hummed a circus midway song, held out her hand,
pretended to grab a ring from a hook, tried to get a free ride.
Oh well, she said, nothing lasts forever, right?
I said, could be we’re just chrome spokes on a chopped fat boy,
a V-Twin pushing its way through warm summer rain
up PCH to nowhere in particular,
or a pair of Vic Firth hickory 5-B’s rhythmically beating out fractions
or the chronic ache from a broken mayonnaise jar tearing through a wrist…
Or the jittery lipstick on the face of a 73 year old woman
locked in rehab, addicted to valium and vodka cocktails, she said,
or the wished-upon luck of 1000 origami swans,
or a Rose of Sharon, open and inviting in the daylight—closed for business at dusk.
We laughed and then she said, No matter, either way you will always know me,
see me, understand that it was me all the time.
Metastasized, inoperable, terminal. Six weeks, she said,
but thinks she can last as long as twelve.
She said her cat’s a lucky omen
and will I take it with me when I leave.
Two months later I receive a funeral announcement.
Inside, a small note in shaking cursive…
Are you still writing love poems?