We all knew you were a walking time bomb,
the explosive charge your enlarged heart,
the timer your diabetes,
the detonator your epilepsy.
I was there at the hospital after
your first heart attack when they
announced you had, effectively,
lost half your heart. You were
the one who started it after
the gang left, wondering about
the words “effectively” and
“affectively", breaking me into howls
of sudden nervous laughter as you parsed
the different diagnostic possibilities
of both words, joining my helpless
gallows laugh with your own but
apologizing because, as you explained
between gusts of soft gasps, you
could only laugh half-heartedly,
that hideous adverb provoking
a loud raucuous exhaustion of
every possibility you could do
half-heartedly, from walking to
sleeping to dreaming to hearing
to reading to talking to living
to tasting to seeing to touching
to defecating to micturating,
a word you had to define for the
two nurse interns who had peered in
and then joined in, worried, then
astonished, then delighted by
this man who could paint such a
surreal landscape of puns and jokes
about his own heart attack
You never did anything half-heartedly.
We all knew that. We all knew about your
meticulous attention to detail, those
legal pads of notes on every slide,
your image horde, that stupendous
treasury of slides, your eyes, that
vast concentration of knowledge
and intellect behind your piercing
stare, a falcon’s eyes. We all knew
you could see better than all of us.
The last time I saw you in the parking lot
after class. You’re in your car, motor
running and I’m walking down the sidewalk,
loitering, a last forbidden cigarette
before the drive down I-380. We nod at each other,
acknowledging the same road we’ve traveled
all these same years. You back up, we nod again,
a cursory wave of the hand and you drive out.
I miss that white Ford Escort wagon,
the back piled high with books and canvas.
I miss the Dennis Kucinich bumper sticker.
I miss you.