Two Poems by Karol Wasylyshyn


Doctors call those of us who pass 80 the “really old.”

My most precious friend is vanishing even
as we sit huddled at his favorite table in The Gramercy Tavern
table chosen for comfort and vista years ago
but essential now lest I not hear his words
words barely audible—his 83-year-old vocal cords straining
and I leaning farther and farther over the table
pulling my hair aside so not to graze his salad.

We are drinking champagne and Brunello
but in very low glasses for him, low and accessible glasses
as he can no longer tip his head back far enough for stemware.
Our conversation creeps over the table
words and tastes intermingle unlike before
when words trumped all flavors.
We are savoring our memories—this is the glow that binds us now.

My most precious friend is vanishing.
He cannot stand straight or sit easily
his torso is sinking toward spine
his kaleidic mind is dimming at a hurried pace.
Avoiding another stumble, he does not venture into the city
reporter’s notebook in pocket for capturing the catalyst of a poem.

My most precious friend has been vanishing, the
physical and mental insults have been accumulating;
I see this now—not only in body and mind but in
the lines of his poems—lines now more withered and portentous.
And I, well, I have begun to envision myself sitting on a bench
in the silent stone courtyard, reading his words without him.


Do you remember how after—after the electricity,
the great conflagration that nearly burned you down—
how you couldn’t even recall the spark?
You remembered only that something wild and
ill-formed arrived—unwieldy mass of clay that yielded
to your kneading and throwing and molding on the wheel
you imagining a vessel, a vessel beyond its own words or
thoughts, briefly perfect vessel touching for a time in its
persistence, beckoning shades of blue and promise,
well-fated vessel for drinking—tipping with you all numb
and crazy…sliding into your next night. Yes.
Yes, sometimes we invent what we need.

Karol Wasylyshyn’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alembic, Clackamas Literary Review, Lullwater Review, The Medulla Review, Milk Money, Nimrod, RiverSedge, and Spillway.