This Is Not an Obituary

By Lisa Badner

Featured Art: The Funeral by Edouard Manet, 1867

–For Claudia Card

Claudia, you asked me (in advance) to write your obituary.
You gave me your 37-page single-spaced CV.
Now the time has come,
I have not written an obituary.

After the biopsy results last year
You said I would inherit your music library.
I used to play piano.
I stopped playing piano in 1984.

You nominated me for a graduate fellowship.
You said I would have been a good philosopher.
I got the fellowship. Thank you.
Then I dropped out.

I went back to New York, eventually to law school
to pursue a mediocre career. After your lung surgery
you told your other visitors that I was a judge.
You seemed so proud. Claudia, I kept telling you, administrative judge.

In the 90s I took you on a walking tour
all over Manhattan.
You developed plantar fasciitis
from the hard city pavement.

I took your Ethics class in 1984. You held the chalk like the cigarettes
you used to chain-smoke. Your mother died of lung cancer.
You told me your family was so poor she barely went to the doctor—
the lung tumor protruded from her chest by the time she got someone to look at it.
So in 1989 I lied when you asked me if I smoked.

I still have the coat and blazer I bought
the day I gave you plantar fasciitis.
I don’t have the letters you wrote and the papers you sent me.

The last time I ever saw you,
I hugged you goodbye when my taxi arrived to take me to the airport.
You were in bed, cancer in your brain, maybe your spine.
My heavy backpack fell over me onto your abdomen.

When they moved you to hospice
you said you’d rather I come see you again at this new facility
than come to your funeral.
I didn’t see you at hospice.
I didn’t go to your funeral.

Lisa Badner’s writing has appeared in magazines including Rattle, PANK, Ping Pong, Mudlark, the Mom Egg Review, Fourteen Hills, New World Writing, and The Satirist. “This is Not an Obituary” in New Ohio Review Issue 20 received “Special Mention” in Pushcart 2018. Lisa’s full length poetry collection, FRUITCAKE, is forthcoming in 2022 with Unsolicited Press.

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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