Laura Milner - PROMISES–for Peter Christopher


             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

and loving.


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

an object.

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.

Posted on December 7, 2013 .