It was walk or freeze one night on Hudson Street.
You know how New York can get desolate and frigid
in some neighborhoods. Nothing’s open,
and it’s just river wind rushing back and forth.
The next time you can sit down warm is long, long blocks away.
My back was so bad, I lowered myself on my cane,
and sank onto the sidewalk ice.
I was OK after a while but
my friend Gigi had been immobilized in her bed
for long weeks. Each of her convalescences
was scarier and, in diagram form,
a livelier animation of black dots:
cancer spreading at a quicker pace.
We skyped so she could show me her wigs,
and talk about our problems with pain
in the funny, philosophical way she liked to talk.
I flew to London where she was in a hospice apartment
Paul arranged. He cooked for her and left us alone
to say goodbye. “Read me the Russians,” she said.
Her hair was shaved close, growing in from chemo,
and she liked me to read and scratch her scalp.
“I can’t control it,” she said,
when her diarrhea gurgled in a tube.
I said, “It doesn’t matter,” and she accepted that.
She wanted to talk about knowing she was dying.
I heard from Paul that she ranted and threw plates
in the very last days, seized by the fear of being forgotten.
She confessed that fear to me, too, as I would pause
reading out loud, making sure that she really wanted to hear
all this about Gusev, the poor Chekov character who slid
dead off a plank and sank into the sea.