6 to 12
   by Adrian Magnuson

Exploratory surgery.  We wait for the doctor’s call.  
Your trial now over, the jury has a verdict.  
The judge has given you 6 to 12 months,
a life sentence.

Inoperable  tumor.  Pancreatic,
curling among the blood vessels
feeding your intestines.  As it grows you will
starve to death.

How can I say this to my mother now?  
How can I tell her
she will come to outweigh you,
you who have always carried our weight.

There’s a son’s duty in this call, listening to the prognosis,
comforting his mother and sisters,
taking the first blow.  But who will be my comfort?  
Where can I send my tears?

Tomorrow I will bring you home,
but how can I face you?  
What will I say?  Must I tell you, you will die?  
I cannot.

“I know I’ve had it,” you say,  
and see this truth reflected in our faces.  
I offer, “There’s still the chemo.”  
Postponement of a fact.

Fifteen months have passed,
and today the details distract our tears.
We want the oak, the dark gray granite, and Eternal
Father, your favorite hymn.

One last detail, one last signature,
declining dissection.
I write your name, adding my Jr.
for the last time.