When I was younger, one of my co-workers
was an older lady, or so she seemed to me.
She was just always there,
a woman who ate at her desk from a clear plastic container--
some sort of salad.
She was just an ample,
as permanent as the pyramids.
I thought of her then as something akin
to those funky American clunker cars from the fifties
still rumbling around Havana,
something you'd smile at
but not feel had anything to do with you.
She wore a cross that rested on her bosom,
like the ones that dangle from the mirrors of Cuban taxis.
She stopped coming to work, though, and someone said she was ill.
"Pancreatic cancer" they told me, sotto voce.
I knew, as a northerner, that weather can change in an instant.
What I hadn't known is that I am made of weather
blood and bone and breath
breezing through me every second of every day.
I went to see her with some other women from work.
There, in the hospice, she wasn't ample anymore,
just a paper doll watching episodes on tv through a narcotic blizzard.
British adventurers were removing treasures from the tombs
in grainy archive footage
as the knot inside her belly grew and her hand grabbed at nothing.
"Morphine hallucinations," someone whispered.
After she died I took one of her cats, a calico I had for several years.
I still think of that day at the hospice, though
and how the clown-devil can sit silently at one's side any time,
like a taxi at the curb, bags already arranged in the trunk.
He will watch whatever you want to watch,
at that wind-down hour.
He never complains, talks over the narrator, or changes the channel,
but though we protest that we were only in the middle,
I want to see how it ends
he will click it to black, pull into traffic, and say,
"Nada es para siempre, ni siquiera sufrimiento."
The last line says, "Nothing is forever, not even suffering."
Music: Compay Segundo Chan Chan