Greater Than and Lesser Than
When you have eaten all you can, two spoons worth of pudding or applesauce, I’ll kiss you on both cheeks. Every day until you have no cheeks, until the cheeks sink into the skull, and hope sinks too. Until you fold your hands, lie down, lie still now, as the smoke rings of old cigarettes dissipate, a chalk alphabet washed out of the air.
Until you can only whisper. Then I’ll go— no more to be done—drive through the day. In the night a tall glass of Guinness appears, poured before me, the darkness filling up. Your last words to me were not Don’t go, but Take me with you.
I feed the baby, but cannot eat. I hold the phone while sleeping. Sleep it will; little words like yes and no too heavy for you now. The only call to come, the one I can’t face.
How many times will I remember this voice that flashes and fades like a shadow on the wall? Waiting is an arithmetic that consumes us. Greater than and lesser than. A symbol on which children draw teeth.