For those who asked, here is the poem. It was written in February, 2007 at the writing retreat with poet Barry Lopez sponsored by the Oregon Writing Project
When the Knock Never Came
Was there ever a time-a specific moment your childhood ended?
Sometimes they fade away, or get stolen; sometimes they dance on willingly
But sometimes they smash into mountains.
In Dr. Halpern’s office I heard the “C” word,
My huddled family, minus mom, that she has cancer,
His bottom lip curled when he said the word;
I see it always.
We all went home for eight months,
Eight months of failed therapy,
Eight months of special medicine,
Eight months watching her drain into that puddle that once held
An inexpensive facsimile of the American Dream.
She occupied the back bedroom-best for everyone,
Please knock before entering,
Knock so you will be prepared to see the disease up close and personal,
So you won’t disturb her sleep;
We always knocked,
Unless we were in the room; I often was.
How do you tell your mom about your life when it isn’t lived yet?
How much 19-year-old detail will satisfy any questions?
So I fantasized; college, a teacher’s life, a loving wife, grandchildren, home…
(Vietnam hadn’t exploded yet; on TV, Father still Knew Best)
And when the day came, we put her in the car--hospital before grave-
But I followed in my VW, alone and crying, watching her look at the neighborhood for the last time,
Thinking of the PTA, wondering what we would have for dinner that night,
Knowing she’d never land in Hawaii…
The room engulfed in silence, door open now, clean but dead.
The knocks never came again.
Mama may have, papa may have,
But God bless the child that’s got his own,
That’s got his own.