Poem 174 ± November 25, 2015

William Merklee
Harry Twenty Years On

He was raised
To quote chapter and verse.
A true believer
Not even for silver—
Just certainty.

Unlocking the door
He slumped against the wall.
I helped him to the sofa;
Easy in his small studio,
Past the kitchenette,
A spice rack filled
With myriad medications hung
Beneath photos of young Natalie Wood
And young Dean Cain.

A beautiful drive,
A chance to talk, about god
And California and the Hemlock Society
And would I help him—
A promise never tested.

I searched for music on the radio,
The thing that had brought us together
In high school.
He would have liked the club mix of
Where The Streets Have No Name.
I was thinking the theme to
Midnight Cowboy.

An hour later, at the hospital
It occurred to me
The staff believed I was his partner.
It never occurred to me
To correct them.
The memory of their kindness
Melts my heart still.

A drainage tube in his back.
A little more life in his eyes.
His wit and humor diminished
But still potent.
When his parents arrived
I was barely there.
They were unwilling
Or ill-equipped to be
In such a moment.

They displayed the same countenance
At the memorial, a formality,
Something to endure.
I said I didn’t know
Where we go
When we die, if anywhere.
But I hoped some of my loved ones
Now had the pleasure of his company.
And I wondered
Who among his family
Had had to box up his gay porn.

I still hear his voice.
I struggle to write his story.
To remember
All the ways
Healing never happens.

William MerkleeWilliam (Bill) Merklee’s work has appeared in Columbia, StoryBytes, New Jersey Monthly, and The Record. He is a writer, graphic designer, and musician with an affinity for short stories, short films, and very short songs. Bill lives in the beautiful Ramapo Mountains of northern New Jersey with his wife and children.

This poem is not previously published.