By Paul Allegra
Metal gurney against preserved flesh,
maybe this isn’t the first time
Maybe we accidently locked eyes in a restaurant,
quickly looking to our plates in order to avoid
Or maybe I’ve walked by you
at a busy city intersection.
Two lives that came so close
but didn’t arrive until now.
Perhaps you’ve seen me
speeding down the parkway,
my yellow and red surfboards rattling amongst a nest
of fishing rods and an old white cooler
in my silver pickup.
While I headed south towards exit 98,
maybe you were heading north
to tell your family the bad news.
While I blasted the radio and rolled down the windows,
slamming my hand against the dashboard to the beat of
guitars, you drove in silence, rolling rosary beads
against your sweaty fingers.
While I thought of waves,
you thought of how to spend your final months,
or how you would break the news to your only son,
Or maybe you were the woman in the tollbooth,
the person with whom I wanted to stop and talk,
but traffic laws necessitated our brief exchanges.
Maybe you didn’t know you were sick.
Maybe you did.
Maybe you were a nurse, or maybe even a doctor,
and you fell victim to the same illness you treated.
I may have been your apprentice,
maybe even your partner.
I scan your body,
shrouded beneath a green towel like a mummy
or someone hiding from monsters
in the dark.
I lift the towel.
You are lying face down.
I think that you may be uncomfortable,
I know I would be.
Maybe you died from cancer.
Maybe, you were not as lucky as my mother.
Maybe you never achieved remission.
You may have been the woman
sitting underneath the rainbow umbrella,
checking badges for the Manasquan Borough
so that I wouldn’t use the beach without paying.
Maybe we talked about how absurd it is
that one has to pay to enjoy a beach,
such a public place,
and maybe you let me sneak in.
But then again, probably not.
You may have given me a speeding ticket,
or I may have sat next to you on a bus.
Maybe it was a train…
Or maybe you lay next to me one summer day,
enjoying the vibrant sun against your warm skin
while I built castles
and unknowingly threw sand on you.
This is most likely our first encounter.
But when the time comes to flip you on your back,
I hesitate to look at your face,
because maybe, just maybe,
you’ve looked at mine.