Maja Lukic

After Marie Howe

It was the last day of her life

and none of us knew.

Before we entered her room, my father warned us

she looked worse than she was. No one knew

she was far worse than she looked—

the shape of her hairless head

against the pillow, her skin ash,

and so much of her gone.

Her half disappointment at seeing me see her:

“You came? When did you come?”

I sat at her bedside, latching on

to useless things—the cold sunlight, the nurse’s optimism.

I know now she knew what would happen next,

snow cells invading her lungs even as we sat.

It was in the way I was last to leave her room

and turned to blow a kiss,

and the way she raised her hand, slowly,

as if to say goodbye and stop at the same time.

I didn’t realize until much later that our final exchange

was a miscommunication—

Because I meant, I’ll see you soon, I love you.

And she meant, I love you, goodbye.

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