I knew a man

 

I knew a man,
though not very well.
A nice man
now dead
from pneumonia.

We were all looking sideways at S——
with her regrowing cancer hair
but death came at us
from an unexpected direction.
I wasn’t even aware he was sick
until Friday.

On Saturday
I cut off the tip of my finger.
It’s not often I am afraid
but I was
truly
afraid.
I pressed my finger into my palm to stem the bleeding.
It felt deformed. Too short, too flat.
I didn’t want to know what it looked like.

A reminder of my mortality
too close
too close.

On Monday
we get the office email.
He has died. We grieve his passing.
The office is quiet
with heavy atmosphere.

Somebody has set
a vase of flowers
outside his office door.
They have been placed there
very gently
by honoring hands,
sad hands.

We need
to honor the dead.
We decorate their haunts.
We create ceremonies.
We save mementos.
We tell stories.

I only knew this man by sight.
Another office worker
someone who helped grease the cogs
of our mutual machine.
We might wave or nod.
He had a habit
of muttering to himself
funny, quirky things.
I would pick up snatches of his internal dialog
when I walked by.
How well did he know me?

My finger is stiff with scab.
I worry at it, clean it, unwrap it, rewrap it.
It will have to last me
a few years longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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