after his wife died of cancer, the tumors in her brain
cut out repeatedly, only to return
after she went from forgetfulness,
her tasks as a secretary slipping her mind
or botched--the year wrong on the letter–
to sitting in her chair struggling for words to answer
how are you? what did you do last weekend?
to having no words for anything
after the decision to cease chemo
because its effects diminished
after their only child moved up her wedding
so her mother could bear silent witness
after her final shopping trips to the Mall of America
in the fury of pre-Christmas
after hospice and the funeral
where he told guests of her love of music
and how she had asked him out when they were young
in the seventies in Catholic and Lutheran Minnesota
he told her former co-worker that he didn’t know why
he had prolonged their courtship for eight years.
starting to cry, he said I wish I’d asked her to marry me earlier.