Todd Heldt


I want to pretend that everything happens
at the same time, and gene technology
is not fifteen years too late for you.
The tape can't be rewound, but we are
having one of our debates about records
sounding better than cassettes or even CDs,
and how funny we have no idea that
the IPOD is coming, is here, or that
the internet is a new way to transfer
your last concerto, how you make music
weep from a piano's wide-open eye.
I want to download and listen again, but
you happen too soon, and it's not there.
We talk on cell phones anywhere we want
--we all have cell phones--and you
complain about mid-90s feminism,
which isn't a good idea, you reckon
because God makes Eve out of Adam
for a reason. I already know those stories
are just campfires struck on the horizon
to keep our eyes on the path in the dark,
but can't say that to you, who are so close
to taking the hike. The point is everything
keeps changing, and every year I think
of you less. I open the alumni newsletter,
read that you die, and wish I had kept in touch,
even though I don't have much room in my head
for another tombstone, or know what to say
beyond how awed I am by your faith
in the face of dying of this incurable thing
you never asked for. The tape plays on,
twin suns bloom in New York, the cell phones
might be killing the honey bees, can be used
to detonate IEDs, the coral reefs are dying,
and there is a drought in Russia. Moscow
is ablaze. This one couple is trying to have
a wedding, and everyone has to wear
surgical masks. You could laugh if this all
were funny somehow. There is too much
news, too much buzz, like the sound of my
old boom box when I turn down the volume,
hear only the grinding of gears,
how under the chatter that the McRib
has come back, you can almost hear
the chainsaws clearcutting a country.
My wife gives birth to my son
in an August, and I try to let myself
feel all the things I think I should feel.
I have an IPOD and a cell phone, but
you are still dead. If you were alive
we would probably sit around drinking
coffee and talking about how bad things are.
Then I would show you his picture and say,
He gives me hope, but also I am sad.
I hope he outlives me, that his son outlives him,
and that they are each a better friend than I am.
Beyond that is further than I can extend,
but the tape keeps playing. Everything happens,
and in the paper it says there is hope again
for a cure, that you can take genes from
a resistant person, and give them
to someone else, as if taking a whole life
out of someone else's bones.

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