The surgeon made a six-inch cut
from my navel downward, removed an organ
peppered with cancer. Before the surgery,

I took a picture of my abdomen—
this is what it looked like when I had
all my parts. Over weeks and months,
I found myself fingering the healing
incision, a tingling reminder of the gash
where hands entered.

I have wondered when the scar
and its sensation would go away.
It was red and stitched,
visibly and invisibly. Later
it felt like braided cord. Then
upper portions flattened, smoothed
out, while lower parts remain
raised and hard.

A year passed. I think it will not
change much more. Now I realize
I don't want it to disappear.
I want to touch my scar,
be reminded of what's gone,
have feelings wash over me.
It's hard when young
to understand the sheet
music of life. Bundles of eager nerves
allow us to compose and play
symphonies of passion
with long rhapsodic movements,
Opus One and beyond.

My aging father told me
he would rather listen
than perform.
He liked music to lull him to sleep,
not arouse him by its stirring strains—
his libido had become pianissimo.

I didn't want to be told
that the music fades,
that the hormonal themes of youth,
with their
presto tempos
and encores
would be replaced
by a role as supernumerary.
Was it like a pianist foiled by arthritis,
or would the will leave with the skill?

Decades later, I am a senior.
My concerts are less frequent,
but I better understand
the internal fugue. The music
moves at an adagio tempo.
Hormones that once played key
instruments now sit idly
on the sidelines, sometimes ignoring
the conductor's baton.

I've found new music to score,
                    riffs and flourishes
                              to explore.
Improvisations replace
well-known tunes with different
                                                  longer overtures.
And, as for all good
musicians, it's practice, practice, practice.
The message that came with the bottle
says the wine will be at its prime
in about ten years. Aged a bit
beyond perfection myself,
I'm taken aback.
Is this a sign
I'll be here
to enjoy the bottle in its time?
If I keep buying young wine
will it extend my life,
or will the bottles I put in the rack
have another's fingerprints
when poured?
In the eighties, his seventies, my forties,
I flew south to drive him north. His pale
yellow Cadillac was waiting, full of luggage.
On the Interstate I set the cruise control.
We settled in to chat away the miles.

Talk turned
to my teenagers and driving.
In detail, with as many gestures
as allowed at the wheel, I told of times
when, as their passenger, I "braked"
I wondered aloud if a parent
ever gets over that.
     No, he replied.
Not even now?
     Not even now.

Did you know that I used to drive
your pink Lincoln at high speed
down the three-lane highway
through Gumbo Flats?
He had known
but never had said a word.

Locked in
just above speed limit,
we rode for a while in silence,
comfortable in our lemon leather seats.
At a local chain restaurant,
she sat alone at a table, busy
writing on folded cards,
a pile of finished notes stacked nearby.
Waiting for my son to return,
I said, Catching up on thank-you notes?
when she looked up, I saw

her sad and open face.
I just lost my baby.
Shocked, off balance,
I replied as best I could.
She smiled, But they are
thank-you notes.
She reached out
her hand, I grasped it.
She moved her gaze

back to the pen in her
fingers. My son brought
sandwiches and coffee
to our table.
We talked about
his apartment lease,
a new computer program,
his photos of Forest Park.

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