Small Deaths
by Krikor Der Hohannesian

a phone call in the middle of the night,
the son of a best friend – words
choked by the heave of sobs
erupting from his belly – his father,
a sudden death, and the air whooshes
from my lungs, but no words come…

or others, friends you once
danced and sang with,
still on this earth but many
now lame or raspy-voiced

and you, sister, children
a continent away, living
with angst and two Abyssinians
your comfort at night

or you, brother, your gait
shuffled by the disease
that one day not so distant
has claim on you

or you, dearest, your mother’s
ship long since having left port
on a tide of dementia and you
on the shore still waving
safe journey, safe journey…

and so I watch the insults
pile up and give them names,
like “Arthur” for arthritis, “Nolan”
for no language as I search
for a lost word, “Stenny” for stenosis
when my legs don’t work quite right.

All this we might call aging,
these losses one by one,
or we might call them small deaths,
a collective prelude, as if one’s own demise
will be the symphony of all symphonies.

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