JOSEPH GREEN

A friend’s letter says
the cancer has come back,
this time with a real bite.
You want to ask: How many
mouths? You think: Pack of
wolves. You’ve seen them run
down a caribou on some PBS
documentary and serve it up,
but that’s family fare
so nobody suffers much.
Everybody howls. All of your
more acceptable responses
have fallen out of your mailbox
and it’s going to take both hands
to pick them up. Your friend
says he’s been expecting this new
assault for so long he had forgotten
it might be coming. Now it’s here,
along with the rest of your mail,
the weight of his trust
as he gives you his prognosis.
You don’t get many bills anymore
since you’ve gone to online banking,

but here’s a limited-time offer
of easy monthly payments
for aluminum siding you can’t
imagine buying. The Honda dealer
wants to lure you into a new car,
and a charity organization is offering
a FREE GIFT in exchange
for your donation, so it isn’t really
free and thus can’t be a gift,
the enclosed sheet of fifty
peel-off return address labels
bearing your name. They’re meant
to make you feel guilty, obligated,
unlike your friend’s letter,
fresh from its envelope of dread
and pain. You think of it taking
a deep breath. You can practically
feel it gritting its teeth.

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