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An excerpt from The Death Cycle Machine: Poems by Charlotte Mayerson

Charlotte Mayerson wrote The Death Cycle Machine in response to the death of her son, the journalist Robert Henry Mayerson, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1990. Ms. Mayerson's other books include Home Fires, An Easy Life, Two Blocks Apart, and Goin' to the Chapel, published this year by Basic Books.

Glad I Didn't Waste Money

Glad I didn't waste money straightening that tooth
Glad I resisted
Though they warned
The misalignment
Would cause wearing away,
By the time he was middle-aged.
Well, at least I don't have to worry about that.

"Did I tell him everything he needs to know?"
When he left home
(Left home. At the very least.)
I sewed name tags
On all his clothes
With stitches so tiny
They were like a thousand stored penances
To the account of that question.
Well, whatever he doesn't know
Doesn't matter now, does it?
That's a relief.

(And the shirt I chose to bury him in?
That blue and white checked job he wore to death?
Never mind, no laundry service where he's gone now.
Losing stuff is no problem
That's for sure.)
"My God! I forgot about the earlobes --
Or the toes."
I'd prod myself with those
When I was pregnant
As if not attending them
Might mean he didn't get them
Or got imperfect ones..
. And maybe there was something to it.
Toward the end, he said,
"AIDS has cured me of athlete's foot."
Thank God we don't have that to deal with anymore.

Or his eyes.
His grandfather had glaucoma
So I'd nag him
To get his eyes checked.
He went blind anyhow --
Not from glaucoma, though,
That wasn't the problem I'm happy to say.

Though he didn't die of lung cancer
He did stop smoking
There's that to be thankful for
And though he was always climbing
To the top of the tallest tree
And going on wild adventures
To places I'd never even heard of...
He escaped all that.

Because he was so carefully brought up,
He was safe.
Such dangers didn't touch him.
There's that to take comfort in.

Of course when he was thirty-five
The bogeyman got him anyhow.
Test score? Zero.
That's the very thing
So-called mothers
Are meant to prevent.

Haiku for an East Asian Scholar

I didn't teach you to ride
A two-wheeled bike
That summer
So you could die.

Excerpted from The Death Cycle Machine: Poems by Charlotte Mayerson. © 1995 by Charlotte Mayerson. Reprinted by permission of Crown Publishers, Inc. This book is available in bookstores, or can be ordered by calling 1-800-733-3000.

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This article was provided by Crown Publishers, Inc.. It is a part of the publication The Death Cycle Machine: Poems by Charlotte Mayerson.