On a night train to Albany.
The cars slid North on the tracks
And rain splattered grime
Around the sealed windows.
Slouched, sweating and panting-
Hot in the cold Amtrak air,
I flirted shamelessly with Death;
Almost fell into Death’s open arms
At that moment.
But I swore I would not take my
Last breath in Poughkeepsie.
(That suburb meaning “Two Pines”)
I stared unblinking at Death.
Not like Emily Dickinson and her fly,
But for real. I saw it. Genderless. Careless.
And when the man seated behind me
Came back from the Cafe Car
I smelled Death too.
A microwaved turkey wrap,
A cardboard cup of coffee
Took me to the
Schools Churches Hospitals Airports
Their institutional cafeterias
That meet and greet us,
Heralding our passages
In and out of life.
Chafing Dishes Warming Trays
The heat lamps and the microwaves
Preserving our day-old comfort food
Until we can take a break from
Birth Surgery Marriage Goodbye
Until we understand that commencement
Really is the end of something.
Until we have been through enough to know that
The smell of macaroni and cheese
Mingled with Star Gazer lillies
Means that a loved one has gone forever.
But we eat anyway.
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