The last word

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Publication: The Christian Century
Author: Janzen, Jean
Date published: May 17, 2011

- after Frederick Buechner

And who is this young stripling beside you.

Uncle George bellows from his hospilal bed

in Chicago, untamed city of wind and soot.

His white hair in a tousle, he sits up,

surveys us. this man who terrified me

as a child with his fiery preaching.

Young marrieds in the '50s, we stand beside

his rumpled bed above the traffic

on Michigan Avenue, sirens echoing.

In this city my husband is studying

the body's diseases while I read Hamlet

and King Lear, both of us seeking cures.

Lear cries "Howl, howl, howl!"

Surgeon enters with his sharpest knife,

pours medicine that kills before it heals.

No rescue wilhoul nakedness, Shakespeare wriles,

Lear fumbling the button at Cordelia's throat,

all of us leaning into the final word, mcrcv.

Jean Janzen

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