For the Boy I Wanted, Fifty Years Ago, To Take to the Senior Prom


Quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi flavo
Argentum Pariusve lapis ciorcumdatur auro. Aeneid, Book X
This week your throat has refused to swallow
any of your favorites we tempt it with –
Black Bing cherries, Pemaquid oysters, minced papaya.
It’s too difficult to nibble biscuits
softened in milk — your lips spurning
even rice pudding and the exotic purees
that pretend they’re just as appetizing
as solid food – banana pepper puree,
organic cilantro puree, green goddess puree.
It’s one thing to ask you to be brave,
but to demand that of your salivary glands,
your esophagus too? Your tongue has enough trouble
chewing air into words.
Has your mouth concluded that it’s time
to turn to higher matters?
And what of us? Who swarm around you
like a congregation of flies.
Like a family trying to persuade their wayward boy
not to set off on some cockeyed vision quest.
Like old lovers blocking the monastery door.
Like children begging for just one more page
in the story they don’t want ever to end.
Even wasting away, you’re as gorgeous
as Aeneas stepping out of the cloud
his mother had spun around him.
One more drink of water,
we plead. Just one more sip of water.

Christopher Bursk