Striper Tournament

A friend is dying slowly
And I’m wrung out
For words; he from pain
That never ends.
My philosophy major isn’t cutting it:
“Know this:  We’re all next.
Everything that ever lived or will live is around your bed tonight.”
But no sooner than I hang up the phone
I see I’m out of beer
And the Pantry closes at midnight
A twenty mile round trip in dark and rain
(But—God!– that teen cashier never looked more cute!)
Or sometimes I try the feeling tack:
“Believe me.  We feel your pain,
We really do.”
But what a gross presumption
On my part.  And he knows it:  “YOU–CAN–
Back home, two beers for guilt,
Two more for helplessness, I see
Old times night-conquering the bay
Eels on hooks, the stripers’ strike and peel,
The deep we fought and won, netted
And hoist in—until the words occur calmly
And fulfilled:  “Old friend, just another fishing trip.”
He faintly smiles, we dream.   

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