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for Alexandra Grilikhes

Anne Kaier

1. Forecast
What will your dying be like
there in your lover’s bed?
Will you let me touch you
when your face hollows?
Pausing by your house,
I press my hand in yours
so you will know me
when you’re dying.
        I see you in New York at twenty,
        drumming a yellow table,
        laughing, lifting
        your left eyebrow.
Tonight, the curve of your skull fills my hand;
you bow your head beneath my stroke.
2. Teacher
Tumors snake your chest
in a room suffused with your smell.
You throw your gaunt head back,
pull your starving body out of bed.
Busses groan on Manayunk Avenue
this late December afternoon.
Tight-lipped, I sew beneath a Tiffany lamp,
you twitched your yellow hair, and said:
even a woman who has no child,
feels like a mother.
Now I stitch a linen cloth; I
eat your face with my eyes.
3. Winter Watch
In the museum, Christ’s ribs
jut from his polychrome chest.
I circled that Burgundian cross -
its yellow limbs, its red cuts,
the only salve I could stand
those winter days when
you lay dying.
I took your head in my hands,<
fingered the long line of vertebrae
studding your back,
hid black towels
so you wouldn’t see the blood
when it choked your throat.
You died in morphia,
your body finally
empty; I’m told
not to harry your spirit,
to let you go,
but I still feel the brush
of your skull
on my breast.