I remember that day
when we saw you for the last time
and you gasped for breath
and shook your head
that you were not dying.
You could not speak.
I made you chuckle
(could it have been your last?),
low and sardonic,

reminding me
of your devilish underside
that no one suspected was there,
but which poked through the surface
whenever something caught you
just that way,
then your eyes would lower
and catch mine
behind everyone’s backs
and we would grin together.

Then you died,
and the room
and all them medical equipment,
the door, the curtain, the windows, the floor
seemed to fall away,
irrelevant and dark,
as if a set was cleared
in the middle of a play,
and we were left alone,
in the center of
an unexpected,
incoherent expanse.

That strangeness remains today,
many, many years later.
How I wish you could hear our children laugh —
they would make you
smile your deep smile.
We would all be tied together again
and things would make sense,
be whole.