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Callaloo 23.1 (2000) 75-76
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One by One *
Part 1: In the Family
They won't go when I go.
Live bravely in the hurt of light.
The children in the life:
Another telephone call. Another man gone.
How many pages are left in my diary?
Do I have enough pencils? Enough ink?
I count on my fingers and toes the past kisses,
the incubating years, the months ahead.
Thousands. Many thousands
Many thousands gone.
I have no use for numbers beyond this one,
one man, one face, one torso
curled into mine for the ease of sleep.
We love without mercy.
We live bravely in the light.
Thousands. Many thousands.
Chile, I knew he was funny, one of the children,
a member of the church, a friend of Dorothy's.
He knew the Websters pretty well, too.
Girlfriend, he was real.
Remember we used to sit up in my house [End Page 75]
pouring tea, dropping beads,
dishing this one and that one?
You got any T-cells left?
The singularity of death. The mourning thousands.
It begins with one and grows by one
and one and one and one
until there's no one left to count.
Melvin Dixon (1950-1992) was a professor of English at Queens College in New York. His numerous publications include Love's Instruments (poems) and Vanishing Rooms (novel). He died of complications of AIDS-HIV in 1992.
* from Love's Instruments (Tia Chucha Press, 1995). Reprinted by permission of Faith Childs Literary Agency.