Thursday, May 6, 2021


             I woke up thinking what a pain in the ass it would be for other people if I were to die. So, I decided not to. Kim told me that people don’t think that way. O.K. 

            So far in my competition with Death I am undefeated, though Death has a much longer winning streak. 


            The conversation, along with stories I’ve been reading and hearing about deaths in India and Brazil, led me to remember a poem I wrote about fifty years ago, back when I was more immortal. Bill Whitney was a friend about the age of my father. About my age now.



            Bill in Bed


Bill tells me he is having a crisis of faith.

Tears slide into his beard.


He lives in a hospital bed on the glassed in

porch of his home. His dog


dozes at the foot of his bed. The tv sends

lively ghosts from the corner.


He tells me he is afraid he is never going

to get well again. I decide


not to cry. I see creases in the skin

of his bald head propped


on the pillow. I wonder if the radiation

caused them. I remember


my father’s death, a death I missed. 
Bill tells me


late last night a friend said it is

all right to lose faith


but not all of it. I decide not to cry.

I picture the tumor locked


into Bill’s brain, tentacles inching into

the wet folds, squeezing,


with pitiless eyes and a beak. Bill says

he envies my trips out west.


I decide not to cry now.


As we talk I stroke Bill’s unparalyzed hand.

I rub his foot, but


I’m uncertain about touching his left hand,

still indented where his rings


were removed. The nurse arrives, takes

Bill’s blood pressure, gives


him a shot, checks his skin and the response

of his pupils. Sue


joins us, kisses Bill’s forehead. Tells

the nurse and me she sleeps


here with him, likes to cuddle in bed,

jokes that they make out


heavily when people aren’t around. I rise

to leave. Sue asks


the nurse to make room in the bed for her when

she turns Bill over.  Sure.


I say it’s OK they are married. Sue and the nurse

lift, using some leverage tricks,


relocating the tube leading to the urine bag hooked

on the frame of the bed.


I try to stay out of the way. I’m uncertain

about touching. I’m having a crisis


of faith. Sue leans down


to arrange Bill’s head on a pillow. His good arm

reaches to circle her neck, holding


her in a fierce headlock of an embrace. I

can not see her face or Bill’s.


I am jealous of this broken dying man. I see

now the death I missed.



  1. Additional thought: It choked me up to read. What must it have been like to write it? (I have an inkling, from the poem, what it was like to live it.)