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a poem about you that is really about me or, a poem about me that is really about you

Poetry & Prose | March 23, 2015

You are sick and I am selfish.
I can’t reconcile your life ending as
mine begins, so I don’t even try.
I write this poem
and focus only on myself.
My world spins dizzy on its axis.

This past week, I have
studied my reflection dozens of times.
I saw a man eat yogurt from a cup as he rode
his bike, his spoon winking in the sun.
I started and finished a Gertrude Stein novel.
A fever brewed, boiled,
and melted away. I cried late at night
(but you were not the reason).
I smiled at a boy whose shirt said
be an artist. be a walnut. just be.
I wrote a poem an hour before deadline. I told
someone I loved them, and then said it six
more times for good measure. I pressed
on a bruise just to feel it ache.
I did not call you.
I studied seventy-three
flashcards for my exam and learned how to
rightly define sexual harassment.
I noticed and ignored the dust
blanketing my desk. I typed “stage 4 lung cancer”
into the Google search bar and
pretended not to see the top results:
metastatic.
no treatment.
what’s next?
I planned a trip to Paris.

You are you, but you could be anyone—
even me. So I hold my breath
every time your face flashes before my
eyes. I still bite my nails when I feel anxious,
so they never grow. Everything ends
but nothing really stops.
You are dying—actively dying.
Actively living, too (and so am I), but
this changes nothing.

For Elaine