It has become common among my friends
to greet good news of each others’ exams
with genuine joy, not feigned or mild interest.
I saw this when Suzi teared up to hear
of a painful knot in my breast,
then cheered the outcome of the test.
I saw this when Tom’s GI distress
was diagnosed as stress, not cancer,
and we toasted his survival success.
We are all going for tests, now,
we men and women of a certain age,
and we’re all relieved to hear
we’ll make it through another day.
Most of us fail to recall at work and play
the sudden, unexpected ways death
can sneak up and snatch us away:
the iron bar that flew through Robert’s
windshield, puncturing his artery,
the asthma that snatched Dottie’s last gasp,
the drunk that only broke his knee
when he crashed into Rosalie.
Most of us forget the inevitable end
when we bend to stoke the fire,
meet each other for lunch,
open the phone in the car.
But we have started going for tests,
our breasts, our guts, our asses;
and we heave huge sighs of relief
when our friends receive free passes.
We are bodies on the back side of the ride,
tumbling down the last halves of our lives.
Time passes faster the less that is left;
we greet each reprieve with a champagne fete.