Death in the Family / Stephen Abel


It’s a clear blue sky, late summer –

in panorama – widescreen – Cinerama –

here from the fourth floor “I see you”

maybe slightly desaturated

by the valley haze or some high, thin clouds, thick

triple-paned windows, tinted nicotine-brown

by design or the elements, inside or out.

It might be hot, but it looks cool enough

here from this sterile, climate-controlled hallway

– a tunnel of sorts –

mostly white or gray, with trim, to be sure,

a beginning at one end an end at the other

but the widescreen light to one side, and the drama, such as it is, to the other.


But this is just a poem, written in retrospect:

You were only thirteen then, you did and didn’t see

all that the moment they told you

she was gone. You hardly registered (as was your way)

the blue amidst


the impulse,


to laugh ––


Three months gone by inside the room,

the inevitable

IV, bedpan, the suctioning of the tracheotomy;

small frame, bruised

arms, wet

forehead, hard


nurses, doctors in and out.

While at home: more

TV, movies, friends, solid food,

your bike from here to there,

a glove and cleats, green grass, a glorious championship;

you’ve dropped the baby fat, like magic, Dad’s sober.


And only over time (and with many dreams, and a few poems)

have you discerned the plot line of a life –

the full-frame view –

found your hero’s journey out from

that sterile, purple hallway where you were trapped

between, amidst

the comfortable, killing red

and the choking, guilty widescreen blue.


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