One Last Thing

A coffee and cookie, pillow under the knees,
says that all he needs. He’s tired,
not from lack of sleep, but the other kind
that no amount of rest erases.
The body is putting up a fight— a  skin-too-thin,
skinny-legged, can’t-shit, fight.

Jane barely crossed 50 when she wore out,
all wrecked from drink,
each part of her refusing—
bottles hid behind the dresser,
under the sink—

how did Jane come in?
It’s helping him onto a commode,
the talk of life’s effort, it’s being
right up in someone’s dying—
that’s what brings in the dead,
burdened by the living’s need
to press one more thing to their skin.

Still on the gurney, he says, remember Akhmatova’s egg?
The one she pressed on Mandelstam before his first arrest,
the one meant to be shared three ways.
Here, she said. You’re going to prison. You eat it.

from “Akhmatova’s Egg”  (Toadlily Press)