A Few Calls About Death

My father at the breakfast table with Mom,
hanging up the phone: “Well, Dean is gone.”
My mother’s damn-you tears: how can you?

What else could he do? The time he called
to tell me about our friend who’d been
electrocuted, we were crossing the state line,
my wife and I, the young childless couple
heading back from vacation, and he said:
“There’s no good way to tell you this…”

And he was right. Hollywood doesn’t even
have good lines for it, only characters
fighting hard to avoid the black-hole gravity
of the Big Cliché: there are simply no words.

Just the way I remember the green Ford, the NEC
brick of a cell phone I was using, the round breakfast table,
the Compaq PC I was sitting at when Jan called me
about Brian, the tree I was looking at in the driveway
when Dad told me about my uncle,
waking up to the old GTE wall phone
with a metal cover on the handset
and my grandmother’s scream that sounded like a laugh.

I’m vaguer about her own passing, and my father’s
preacher friend, because I was older, and
unsurprised, but I remember a telephone
was involved – probably a cell phone, and I
was driving to an appointment, or home from work.

He just called tonight, apologizing for the late hour,
to tell me about a cousin, and I’m beginning
to realize he doesn’t have too many of these calls
left to make – he’s about out of brothers and friends.

And I can imagine my brother calling me
or vice-versa, a bit of static on the line, an airport,
maybe a waiting room, a crying child.

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