If I hadn’t kept the death papers—
by Alan Walowitz

If I hadn’t kept the death papers —
cemetery map, proposal for perpetual care,
most frequently asked questions of the bereaved —
tucked inside a manila envelope next to me
on the seat of the car;
if you hadn’t, damn you, asked me
to hold them while she was dying —
it’s what friends do, you insisted, when I balked —
then what unfolded would have surely unfolded
exactly the same, despite frantic last-minute negotiations:
If only you had done this or said that;
If only you had fought harder with the doctor;
or treated the hospital clerics,
who so kindly offered to stop by, with better faith.

But after she was gone what was I to do?
I couldn’t give them back to you —
I had carried them so long.
I could have dumped them in a basket
at the side of the road — and no one would ever know,
though I told myself I would have memorized them first.
Or maybe even as late as today,
I could stash them in the trunk
and they’d be out of sight, but close enough at hand.
Who knows what any of us might need one day?
Though these will forever be of little use,
I will keep them just as you asked;
no matter what I do, still they bear her name.

                                                  for Arnie Eliezer

PHOTO: Arnie and Wendy Lane Eliezer .

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Wendy Eliezer died after a long and valiant—no one was ever tougher than Wendy—battle with cancer in early 2015. Her husband, Arnie, has been my close friend for fifty years. He doesn’t remember asking me to hold the death papers, but they’re still in my car, in case you ever want to see them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz has been writing poetry, sometimes successfully and sometimes un-, for more than 50 years. He has a small portion of an MFA degree in Writing from Goddard College, and has entire degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University and from Queens College. He’s studied with poets Estha Weiner, Fred Marchant, C.K. Williams, Carol Muske, Colette Inez, and Stephen Stepanchev, among others who probably would not want their names mentioned with his. Though writing poems can be quite lucrative, he earned the bulk of his fortune as a teacher and supervisor of secondary English for 34 years. His poems can be found lots of places on the web and off. He’s a contributing editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is available from Osedax Press.  His new chapbook is seeking a publisher. It’s currently titled Against the Science of Sharp Edges, but will alter to suit.