For Who?

I once knew a woman who lied to me about being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Just now I was looking through some of my old writings and came across a poem I wrote about 7 years ago.  At the time of its writing I thought it perhaps one of my best pieces ever and perhaps considered it bordering on great; however, it had been so long since I thought about it, today when I saw it, I wasn’t at first sure what it was.  But after a few re-readings, it’s confirmed: it’s a great poem.

The only problem is, I wrote it for a woman who lied to me about the fact that she was dying of cancer.  I won’t elaborate because, aside from that small fact, it’s not my story to tell.  But I wonder (and I honestly don’t know): how much of this poem’s power is lost because of the fraud for which it was written?


For Ruby

There are men with grease-covered fingers
Who in shack-like bars
Drink strong whiskey
Night after night
And speak of earthy things
Like work and sports
Cars and overtime
Night after night.
They wear the tattered clothes of toil
And smell like mud and forgotten coffee;
These men with the grease-covered fingers
Don’t come and go
(don’t change season to season)
And for better or worse
They know the value of a passing hour.

There are wrinkled women with knitting needles
Who in large bay windows sit
As the town becomes cold
And all around them lights go dim
(pull the needle, pull the string).
They watch the cars drive slowly by
While inside their brains
The foggy undercurrent of old age rages
(the broken bones of youth?
the marriages, the foot doctors,
the miserable trips to the beach with the bee stings,
And the smells of fried eggs and moth balls
Leak from under their doors;
These sagging women with the knitting needles
Have forgotten what they used to know about time,
And bodies.

There are the lawyers, the savages, the body-building kids;
There are men in tight pants, women at car washes, babies in blankets;
There are balloonists, enthusiasts, part-time party clowns;
There are the frat boys with the tucked-in Polos,
Women on Death Row delivering infants,
The dry-wall hangers with the nagging cough, the cab drivers who smell of leather,
Shoe salesman round every corner,
Folks asking for coins,
Mail ladies with Carpal Tunnel
Soda-guzzling fat kids
Coked-out sweaty toll booth people
The nameless the homeless the shoeless the hairless
There are the football players, the deacons, the late-night whores;

There are the gray judges, trampoline families, laughter running through sprinklers;
There are Lobster-catchers whose hands smell like salt and death;
There are Siamese twins, plow drivers, folks with no faith;
There are musty shut-ins,
Gamers, the high-fashion minded,
All of them silently ticking, ticking, ticking,
The world a massive mutable bomb.

And then there is you, Ruby, with your
Six-to-eight weeks to live
And your twirling dance ’round the dining room;
Oh how I wish I could know you more
(ask you more questions, tell you more things)
And that time could stop for now.
But it won’t
(it doesn’t; it never has)
And when your spark arcs over my roof some night
On it’s way to where you’re going
I hope we can share a brief glance
So you can see me smiling so wide
You lived!  You lived!

One Response to “For Who?”

  1. It willAlways be a great work!

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