by Judith Newton

Do you know me? Are you too warm? Shall I help you die?

“There’s none can die in the arms of those who are wishing them sore to stay on earth.”

In the end when you lay almost in a coma,
your belly concave as the flanks of living skeletons
in newsreels long ago,
your pointed hips worn through almost
in purple bed sores
as if your skin had turned to rotting clothes.
Your eyes showed strips of white
like blinds drawn down in a house where I once lived,
and I saw your mind withdraw,
as in a dream when I returned
and found the roof of my old room had fallen in.

And yet your hands were warm, and they were large hands still,
with long square fingers, hands to lay my life in–
now they lay in mine,
as if they were the life in you that still remained.
I held on to them, held on to you
straining not to hear the strangled rasping of your breath,
trying not to see how I was like that man
who kept his dying child from rest by “wishing” it,
by willing it to stay
and pulling it still closer to his breast.

Judith Newton lives in Kensington, CA. She is the author of several books of nonfiction and is completing a memoir: The Joys of Cooking: A Love Story. She is a food columnist for the iPinion Syndicate, and is completing a book of poetry entitled Poetry for the Immune Deficient.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is from the poetry-series-in-progress entitled Poetry for the Immune Deficient. The author created the series for everyone who has suffered loss and for everyone who lacks the immunity necessary to combat what life has to offer. The occasion for these poems was the death from AIDS of the poet’s ex-husband and best friend Dick Newton in 1986. The poems are about loss— how we choose to encounter it and how it comes to us in ways that we are not prepared for. They are also about the complexities of relationships and about poetry as a form of healing. The intention behind these poems seems fitting for September 11th, a day of healing in America.

Want to read more by and about Judith Newton?

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. Norma Liliana Valdez says:

    Judith’s poetry always takes my breath away. I can’t wait to read ‘Poetry for the Immune Deficient’. Thank you for highlighting this wonderful poet on today’s post!

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