—For Leia and Graham
Before he is sick, he surfs the Pacific.
After he is sick, his faint body is pulled
from the water just in time to know
something is expanding. Leia goes over.
Just as friends, she says.
She sleeps in his bed, makes coffee,
tackles the wild zinnias of the Santa Barbara
hills, bends the flora to her spells.
The brain controls everything
except his nearly lifeless foot
moving to a Steely Dan cover.
All his orchids are crooked in the greenhouse
and the cats are missing. Too many coyotes,
he once said. When he was well,
everything survived. The orchids grew
erect, the coyotes were spineless, and Leia
stitched things together on her porch
exactly half a mile from the ocean.
Does anyone ever die in California,
I wonder. Leia enshrines him with eucalyptus
and Neruda, calls us, sleeps fetal now in LA.
You want to hear a love story, someone says.
Meaning them. Meaning this thing,
not quite knowable to us, her hand
on his laughing foot, the only part still alive,
it seems, the contract of their intimacy
that is not quite love, not quite
anything we’ve seen or can name.