The first in a series of poems written to my uncle who passed away from Leukemia six years ago.
I spelled your name wrong for fifteen years
But you never corrected me.
Every hand drawn birthday card
Every package filled with misshapen doilees and red and white beaded candy cane ornaments
Every telephone call
Because even though the letters were spoken
You could hear the taste of J-O-E-S-P-H on my over-eager tongue
Not once did you mark through my scrawl, though
Not once did you even speak to my mother, your sister, about my error
Forever differentiating Joesph from Joseph,
The son from the uncle, the man from the child
A shadow with more names than lives.
Joey, Joe Cool, Fat Boy and
On Christmas day after the wine was hot and our feet were sore, Giuseppe.
But only with me were you Joesph.
Mine was a mistake that under the soft guidance of your forgiveness
Became a link between two souls battered and tired
Clutching desperately at each other
Unmoored in an ocean of our loved one’s grief
It wasn’t until I saw your name printed on the funeral cards
That your double life was revealed to me
The weight of your gift crashed into my chest and through my memory
I realized how you could walk to the brink of death and turn back
Riding disease like you rode 4 foot swells on Jupiter beach
Learning to walk with me as I learned with you
Regaining not just consciousness, but limb, and voice, and touch, and the same self-inflated sense of adventure that has haunted my quiet Tuesday nights
Because you had to heal two people.
But no magic spun by childish adoration
Was enough to keep the abyss at bay
And just months later, your life washed out in a fast, cold tide
Taking both Joesph and Joseph
Leaving me at the tide line
Grasping one end of our secret
And watching the other stretch out across the morning.