Not Us.

Usually I find Mark Halliday not my cup of tea, but this poem, especially when read aloud, is devastating. (This being WordPress, do I need to mention that the formatting is not quite right?)

Not Us


He had congestive heart failure with fluid in the lungs
and she had a tumorous kidney removed.
All this last month! But the thing is,
they are not us. That’s the whole thing.
They
are not us. Once this concept is grasped, the whole picture becomes
clear and makes good sense. Those four words say it all,
They are not us. It sounds simple yet it means so much.
To begin with, they
are at least twenty-three years older than us —
but that’s not the main point, that’s actually kind of a distraction
because the central essence of the matter is
THEY ARE NOT US
okay and it should just
stay that way stay that way it should
obviously I mean let’s keep I mean the lines have to be clear:

they just are not us
which seems a big mistake on their part but really it’s not their fault
it’s just —

in the hospital that’s them
and we are simply the ones who send them a soberly attractive card
saying “How awful”
so then we have sent them a card.
We sent them a card (because “How awful”) so that’s done

and there’s no reason
to think that card flies up into the night sky
and roars looping beyond sound among invisible clouds
looping in silent fury of speed till some year some day it flies down
soberly attractive and slips quietly how awful under your door my love
and my door.

–Mark Halliday, from Jab (University of Chicago, 2002)