The last time, and always

Just as there is a first time for everything,
There is a last time.
This is something we all know:
A last poem we write, a last line,
A last vodka and lime with the right amount of ice,
The last erection, a last kiss,
A grandchild one sees only once.
A last chance to wash the car, renew the plates,
A last fork of the fatty rim of a salty roast
Washed down with pinot noir.

The last occasion on which we cup the cheek
Of someone we’ve loved for all our life;
The last time we fantasize
About that girl, Lucy, whom we loved
So ardently so early on.
She’s gone, we say now, and close our eyes;
She lives in Mississippi, or she’s died.
We close our eyes.

Along the way, we kept the faith.
We lost a son, a spouse, married again eventually.
We did our family tree, kept up with friends.
We got fat, lost weight, went gray.
Alice next door, in 2E, took a shine to us.
She made us her stroganoff, and we had sex.
It had been some time, but it was fine,
Comforting. She seemed happy.
She fell asleep, and I let myself out.

I still had Lucy’s picture on my dresser,
Promoted from its hiding place when I was married.
I wonder what she looks like now—
The cornsilk hair is gone, of course—
Not gone, but not the same.
The long legs, the frank expression,
The lips that promised everything.
Who won that woman?
Did he treat her well?

I would have liked to know her children,
As old now as I was when
Last I tried to find her.
But time passed, the seasons changed.
My wife lost her mind, and I was there
When she died, happy, unaware
Of what had claimed her.
I never loved her.

That is my shame.
But I kept the watch
Until I, in my turn, began to fade.
Oh, I knew it, and fought:
New knees, Viagra, the panoply:
Antioxidants, travel. But RVs
Is where I drew the line.
Deidre had wanted that but I
Would rather cook a steak with shallot sauce
At home than in some camp
With people who shared our hook-up
But nothing else.

So we stayed at home, and Deidre withered.
It would have happened anyway;
Deidre had a gloomy side:
She drank.

We all have our flaws.
Mine is pride, and stubbornness,
Which brought me standing to 85.
But then began the litany of lasts:
The last Ciallis, like a sacred rite,
With a woman, Florence, with heavy breasts
Who cried when I touched her face
Which recalled to her her Gary.

My last birdhouse, never finished,
Overrun by squirrels.
The last trip up the ladder to the gutters
And the clotted leaves from long ago.
The visit from the kids, stern, concerned:
Dad, you need more than we can give.
The packing up, the sorting out.
The years pulled from drawers and shelves
And put in bags to give away or worse:
To burn.

The drinks they made for me:
Here, dad, isn’t this how you like it?
Vodka and lime? With three ice cubes?
Yes, I said, but …
But what?
But what?
Nothing, nothing, I said, it’s fine.
Where had they put her picture?
Where was she, Lucy?
Where are you, Lucy?
I’ve always loved you.