from the upper lip the cancer;
from the lower, just a corner
to replace the missing other;
from the cheek, a graft: a sliver
they say can be mended later —
from the bedside stand a mirror,
from the throat a gasp of utter
recognition: It’s no wonder
that the well-intentioned sister
says she’ll stay till you go under.
From her voice, remove the quaver,
the thick cough of the fellow smoker
(though you’re helpless to deliver
either of you from that future
bearing closer now than ever)—
Settle for a benign gesture
(no one expects your usual humor):
squeeze her hand and then release her;
press the button to deliver
meds to make the numbness number.
As you enter that erasure,
following the tunnel deeper,
carry all our love, my brother.
Ron Mohring is the author of SURVIVABLE WORLD and several chapbooks. He is the indefatigable force behind Seven Kitchens Press.