Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am learning today
some Arabic words
as I read the Reader's Digest
in the dentist's office, waiting
for my son to have his
teeth examined.

Nadir means lowest point.
The nadir of this day
happened at one o'clock
in the morning when
a high school classmate
fell into the abyss
of cancer.

It's hard to believe, said
her brother-in-law,
thirteen months ago

she was as full of life
as you or I.

Elixir is another
Arabic word. Elixir is a cure-all,
which Lisa never found.
Her husband and children
are learning what
the world now looks like
without her.
I wonder if her youngest
will remember in another
twenty years what
life was like with her.

I reward my son's
cavity-free check-up with
a trip to the History Center.
Lost in the minutae
of Minnesota artifacts,
I learn how Bob Dylan
spent the school year of 1959
to 1960 at the University,
leaving shortly before
Garrison Keillor's four-year
tenure as an undergraduate student.

I am learning what
it feels like to slowly lose
my senior-high friends
like maple leaves
turned early in July, which
float to the ground
at the first of August,
the dog days of summer.

I already knew that
those summer weeks
tagged Dog Days
reference how Sirius, the dog star,
moves into the Northern
hemisphere and within
our scope of nighttime viewing.

I am learning that
Charles Lindbergh,
with all his aviation
glory billowing up
his wings, still preferred
the natural world.
He said, "If I had to choose,
I'd rather have birds than airplanes."

Even as I am learning
all of this, Lisa's spirit
hovers somewhere, not here by me,
but close to her family,
waiting for them each to close
his or her eyes,
to sleep at last after
a long day of crying.

I wonder if there is
anything left for
Lisa to learn. Perhaps
she has, like I, learned
the Arabic word kismet.