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To a Dying Friend
by Carole Bugge

At the concert, the woman in the soft pink sweater sits two rows in front of me
      her thin, sharp shoulders slice the air like blades
Mouse fuzz hair clings to her head in wisps like swirls of grey cotton
      cheeks stained brown from radiation
Yet she is here, in this grand room with its glistening carved banister
      the elegant French windows overlooking Fifth Avenue
              She is here and you are not

What do we do when courage fails,
      when mortality rises and swells in our body like an evil tide?
What do we say when the taste of sea is sharp on our tongue
      and the boat stays no longer on the shore
              compelled by the increasing gale to set sail

Onstage, the young music student caresses the piano keys like a lover
      the notes rise and swell and speak of immortality
                his life lies ahead of him, open and wide as a field of yellow wheat
If I could but wrap you in a cocoon of notes,
      keep you safe and warm before the music stops

The journey lies ahead of us all
      but you must set sail now
      while I remain ashore

You, nearly pure spirit now, your flesh burned away
God speed and fair winds be with you, my friend
      as your soul rises and swells
                becoming one with land and sea and sky


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