for Peter Christopher, April 2008
News of your late stage 4
lingers in my chest
burns in my gut
like years ago, when you doubled
over, arm across belly, speechless
in response to my How are you?
after a breakup.
What lifts me is hearing
your voice on the phone, reading
your words in a get-well card today.
You call our conditions
a strange and painful and beautiful adventure,
but one bound to make us more compassionate
What comforts me is receiving
your question, echoing across a decade:
Are you writing?
Only two haiku in eight months.
Good, you say, isn’t poetry perfect right now?
Aren’t you learning so much from your illness?
Brain fog and low energy
pain and despair disable
my hand, my voice---
but your inquiry
resurrects me. See?
We won’t lose you.
You’re still you.
What you’ve taught—are teaching—thrives. Survives.
Exercise. Vitamins. Play. Work. Grin. Jazz. Revise.
Wild mind. Goldberg. Allison. Miles.
When you’re stuck, describe
I reach for the familiar one-inch
square, half-inch thick
red foil covered
chocolate. I unwrap it and read
as it dissolves down my throat, delivering
its promise: Smile at yourself in the mirror.
Your bowls filled with Doves deliver camaraderie
in creative writing committee meetings
in your second floor suite
bursts of anti-oxidant bliss
but not enough to save
or any of us.
Except in spirit.
All we have anyway.
Enough, especially yours.
More important than perfecting this poem
is placing it in your hands in time
that you might savor your legacy
how you reached into and beyond the bowl of chocolate bites
and piles of graded or ungraded papers
how you praised my creative evolution at countless open mics
how you spoke from your heart at our student’s funeral
how you and Carolyn sat solidly at Eric’s table
the night we lost David.
The journey continues.
We walk together.
Laura Milner teaches Writing and Healing, Writing Spiritual Autobiography, and first-year composition at Georgia Southern University. She is associate professor in the Dept. of Writing and Linguistics.