This is a poem about my sister-in-law, who died of breast cancer four years ago.
I had been instructed not to touch,
one cold could kill her, that’s what they said,
obediently, I washed my hands, kept a distance,
which wasn’t hard, really, there had been
silence between us for so long, I sat in the stiff chair
near her hospital bed, we talked about her children
and mine, growing up so fast.
Her death did not creep
into any niche of the chatter,
but eight years of silence stretched its weight
into the room, pinning her to the bed, me to the chair,
then when it was time to say goodbye, she walked me
to the elevator and just before I got on,
she hugged me.
I said, like a catholic school girl, oh no,
we are not supposed to touch, and she shrugged,
smoothed the hospital gown against her bloated
body, she smiled, held me for a moment
with the same blue eyes her kids have,
she said, sometimes there are things
you have to do anyway.