Each visit found you weaker
a paler shadow

Too much pain and effort for
your ironic smile

But never too much for love
We talked of children, grandchildren
I held your hand, hugged you,
each week more skeletal
as you found eating not worth the struggle.

The past swirled around us
and will fade with you

—children’s weddings joyful and hopeful
(remembering your impromptu swim with the little ones
on a hot July afternoon
while we toasted in champagne)
—the year of Eugene Onegin,
puzzling over grammar and
Nabokov’s endless explications.

I was a poor listener all these months
when you talked of “a way out”
but I was unwilling to let you go

I have a special story to tell you,
one you would enjoy.
What will I do with my useless messages?

Lari Smith