abstract 2
By Clifton Snider
For Andrew Berner

Infection plugs my left ear
as I step from the shower
at the moment you are drifting
into the sleep that comes to all.

My poem is unfinished when the news
arrives the next day. I wanted
to celebrate nearly forty years
of friendship. You lived a half block
from me. I used to look for your VW bug,
anticipate drinking at “Uncle” Bell’s
condo on the beach, getting shit-faced
every time. Other times we’d lie in the sun
and I’d tell you how I cut back on my drinking
by using smaller glasses. We stopped at your place
and you brought out the pot. We went to San Diego
to see Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre
with your ex-lover, then to the bath house:
you offered pills like a priest
handing out wafers.

You got sober, off and on, moved away
to grad. school and clinical psychology
and permanent sobriety. I followed
when my time arrived.

I wanted to mention how
you conquered non-Hodgkin’s,
suffered decades of arthritis,
your hands and feet gnarled
tighter as the years went by
like a strangler fig,
how you could not lick
a lifelong addiction to nicotine,
how you explained: “Part of me
wants to die
more than it wants to live,” & I
wanted to express my rage
at the cancer that crippled your lungs,
stifled your breath.

I wanted to iterate
your spontaneous laughter,
your gentle voice–erudite, opinionated,
caring, sometimes wrong, more often
right–how we loved
many of the same things,
hung paintings by an artist
you introduced me to,
meditated at the meeting
you founded, then supped
in Laguna or Dana Point,
conversed for hours
in your condo with its ocean view
and, yes, how we shared a love of
orchids, orchids, orchids.

Today I celebrate the lotus-like postures
of synchronicity that structured
our years of friendship, a bond
only a Higher Power could forge.

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