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My mother-in-law purchased this book for me last year and I’m working through it again.
My friend says yes to this, yes to that,
Lies in bed all day saying answers,
His life reduced each hour to this: water,
Paper-thin sheath of flesh, various cancers
That he allows, even befriends.
Some of us will die of greedier
Diseases, some by their own skeletal hands.
Others will flicker out; a few will rage.
My friend looks through his window to land
Draped over itself in green velvet bulges:
Rippling fields, uninterrupted ocean
From eye to horizon that pulses
With deepening shadow. He used to run
In those fields. The corn was shoulder high.
Awaiting blindness, he says yes again.
With body inside-out the door’s his eye:
Turning to everything, everything enters him.
So I infect him when he looks at me.
All night he coughs up blood and phlegm.
The lungs want air, not scenery. Next day,
He sits up in bed and chooses hymns
For his funeral. If he can stay
Still like this, his body’s broken gates
Unhinged, allowing everything to be
Inside him, saying yes to anything that wants
A body to consume, he thinks
He can become whatever he loves.
That is why he does not break,
And why the ceaseless answers, always the same.
And even though tomorrow he will wake
And cough half an hour, expelling his dreams,
He’ll start again, and in fourteen days
He will finish this task. In death, the seam
Of his body quietly separates,
The word his mouth surrounds now spoken best:
Eternal, without pitch or beat,
The true music intended when I say yes.
He sings this where we buried him as he
Lets in the winter through his melting breast,
And Kansas, which he will become, and me.
for Dean Yates (1952–1994)