“…if wishes were horses, poor men wald ride.” ~ Proverbs in Scots, 1628
The neighbor across the street hailed me
as I was leaving for work, to ask
for the name of the roofer we’d used
the last time we got a leak.
How’re you doing? I asked,
as he fumbled for a pen and a piece of paper
and I searched through my contacts, recalling
how we heard he’d just been in hospital.
And he looked at me and said, smiling weakly—
Oh you know, one more day. Which is also
one day less— By which he meant, hard
to reckon one way or another at stage four,
cancer. Then he gestured at the slates
on his roof, nothing I could figure from where I stood
of where anything might be amiss in their neat overlap
and pattern. And as we stood in front of his yard
among the thick stands of rosemary he’d planted
and divided, something of the smell of summer
persisted: herbal and astringent, wrapped
close around each woody stalk.