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how gaunt you’ve grown, but then, it’s no surprise,
what with all that vanished weight (Bowie, for starters—
Sound and Vision) and those workouts we put you through,
loading you down with heavy headlines, stacking them
deeper day by day. Please forgive us, racing you
this way and that, watching you waste away in Flint,
in Aleppo, in the Pulse of Orlando (Purple Rain falling
silent once more), and in pulsing villages everywhere
being swallowed by the sea. Stupid, we know—
our x-ing out each spent square of you, the wonder,
and tearing you apart, a month at a time.
And now we dare to stand around your sickbed,
begging you to save your strength, because, well,
New Year’s Eve will be here soon, and we can’t help
but gather in your final hours, toasting and talking
of treating your offspring better. Please humor us—
especially in DC, Beijing, Moscow—and if
it’s not too much to ask, could you let us sing a bit,
even past midnight, and (damn it all) make us dance
together too—so painfully close and slow.
Copyright 2016 Christine Rhein. First published in American Scholar. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Christine Rhein’s first collection, Wild Flight, won the Walt McDonald Poetry Prize from Texas Tech University Press.