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Samples from CLOSER TO DYING

Sight-Reading

My mother said watch one measure ahead
but that seemed a hard musical life
always straining to the right
eyes time-traveling alone
staring at a measure which clashed
with what the rest of me was doing right then.

Sixty-Five

This is the age I want to be always, free rides
everywhere, six-dollar movies, book just released,
book forthcoming, book in progress, brand new
marriage, nice new marriage, and still running into
people who didn’t know. And lots of firsts, first
summer teaching, first course-developing, first
math-collaborating, and no lasts, not yet.
I want to remain forever sixty-five, it’s a good age,
hair still naturally sun-brown, legs still running
across streets and along sidewalks, body still
enjoyable in at least two ways.
I’m the youngest senior, just like at one Bret was
the teeniest toddler. I don’t want to turn sixty-six,
the next youngest senior, the end of the beginning,
the beginning of the end.

Recovery

As an oppressed
I thank the oppressor.
I thank my body for letting the hurt stop
for admitting me back to the land of the nontortured
even if much later than sooner.
I thank my body and will reward it by buying it
more clothes at my favorite thrift store.
Yes, I thank my body for being a body that I can
enjoy dressing up
for being my high-school height and close enough
to my high school weight.
I thank most of my hairs for staying reddish brown
my mouth and vocal chords for outgrowing
stuttering
my nose for being aquiline
and my cheekbones for being high.
I thank my body for its energy.
And I thank my brain for all those passions.
I thank it all for staying alive, so far.
Thank you, thank you, I say.
Humbly, humbly.
Perhaps more humbly
than I should.