All those years you lunched with Margaret, or spent time
cooking meals together, baking cookies, batch after batch.
Meals at Thanksgiving and, yes, especially come Christmastime.
Our boys out on the lawn beneath the maples playing catch.
Oh, those years vacationing on the Cape or strolling the avenues
of Naples and ancient Pompey with its new uncovered news.
And now here we were beside her as the end drew near,
this lovely woman we’d known for over fifty years,
her body wracked with illness after illness and so much pain.
There was her younger son, who’d flown in from Eugene
with his wife and kids to comfort her now, his guitar
strumming an old ballad about going home at last.
Her other boy was missing, no longer there for her,
and there was nothing we could do to change that now.
And there was Jim, lost in that dark moment, trying to find
something in images of Roman cemeteries, his mind
grasping for whatever Seneca or Cicero might tell him now.
Still, what did the future hold for him? The past was past.
That much we understood, as on each fleeting moment fled.
But then there you were, my dear, kneeling down beside
her as she sat hunched, staring helplessly on her bed
as suddenly you gazed into her near-vacant eyes and said,
“We’ll lunch again together, Margaret, on the other side,”
the words surprising us, until stoic Jim let go at last and cried.
And so it goes. The unanswered questions you dare not ask.
And then the moment that undoes death’s dreaded mask.
Yes, dear Margaret, we’ll lunch together on the other side.
From All That Will Be New (Slant Books, 2022) by Paul Mariani. Copyright © 2022 by Paul Mariani. Used with the permission of the author.