Heroic Measures

by Richard Greene

In Memory of Sheldon Zitner 1924-2005

My fabled New Yorker,

you saw me off with advice on marriage,

“Keep it flying.”

And with mischief turned to an older friend,

“I go to prepare a place for you.”

That was after surgery, in the “Step Down Unit,”

your small body nested among the wires,

a screen to your left counting heart-beats,

and on your forehead a cloth to cool you.

None of this was really survivable,

but I supposed that you were not killable,

and that you and death would keep waiting for the blink.


I bought a bottle of wine while you were dying;

it was somewhere on the Avenue of the Americas,

and from my change five folded ones

fell out of my pocket into the wind,

and in the dark five figures, one on a bicycle,

chased them down

and laid them in my hand:

so much, I thought, for the myth of the nasty New Yorker —

but what is sentiment in Manhattan?

Far from your bed and bones,

I heard you, still yourself, touching this milk

of kindness with your tongue:

“Repeat the experiment. This time, use twenties!”

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