Friday, December 12, 2008

A Night at the Roman Forum

for Jeffrey

My friend has lost his bones.

First, they collapsed out from under him,
the marrow pulled from their centers with needles.
Next, they compressed.
His spine, once a stretched slinky,
became a huddled mass of vertebrae
rubbing against each other for heat.

We love bones, my friend and I.
We love all things skeletal.
We hold Day of the Dead celebrations together.
We dance costumed down Market Street in San Francisco
on a full-moon-Halloween.
We love ghosts, and on my fourth-to-last visit
with him before he lost his bones
we pressed against each other on the sofa,
watching the armoire which bumped and opened
by itself.
Of course, what else?
A ghost.

The package arrived this week from San Francisco,
not even three months
since he died,
my name written in his handwriting,
a combination of lower and upper case letters
on a tiny white label
on the back of framed artwork of the Roman Forum at night,
a place where our bones had held each other.

We visited the Capuchin crypt off the Piazza Barberini where monks
made sculpture
from the bones of one another.
We stood in darkness looking at the insides of our own bodies,
absorbing the inscription at the last crypt:

Quello che voi siete noi eravamo,
quello che noi siamo voi sarete.

My friend has lost his bones.

The cancer ate them from the
inside out, leaving
only a piece of artwork
of a shared memory
to haunt my spine.

As I am now,
he once was.
As he is now,
I soon will be.

My friend has lost his bones.

Today, I use my fingers to squeeze
My femur.
My shin.
My wrist.
My skull.

Today, my bones still dance, and next year,
on the Day of the Dead,
I hope my friend's bones will find me.

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