A tragedy was the impetus for a backyard barbecue,
a high school reunion of sorts.
we crammed five years or more
into a few hours of shooting the shit
over craft beers, cigarette smoke, and grilled meat.
Sam said she’d OD’d, said a bum found her in a dark alley
near the football stadium, needle still in her arm.
he said she went twenty minutes without oxygen to her brain.
said she had switched to heroin some time
after being hooked on prescription pain killers
for some ailment or another.
Sam stayed in her hospital room for two days
at her bedside.
he watched the pull of the plug
and made sure her chest wasn’t going to magically rise
one more time.
He said she left behind three kids.
when I asked what was going to happen to them now
he said it was a Bad Situation,
let’s just leave it at that.
Her father told me burying his daughter was the hardest thing he’s ever done.
And all I could say was, “I’m so sorry.”
And I looked over at my kids and how beautifully innocent they are,
though mildly bored
because they were the only kids at the party,
so they just played with the dogs
and played games on my phone.
I took a long swallow of beer
to fill in the awkward silence that followed.
Other people’s tragedies put our priorities into focus
for a few moments, until we forget
and return to taking for granted time’s subtleties.
until we go on not changing.
if we are lucky, we avoid our own personal tragedy
while others crash and spill out around us.
To die quietly would be a success.
yet even when we triumph, we leave behind remains;
we are still just bones, with longing in our marrow.