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Star Light–Star Bright
by MaryJo Balistreri

The hardest thing she says is that they will forget.
He will no longer exist as the Sam of practical jokes
and wild laughter.  He will lose his status as playmate,
as fellow first grader. They will not remember how he
showed compassion when they were sick, how he worried
that they had no central line for medicine. They will forget
how special he saw himself, or how they learned
from his difference.
The six-year-olds he went to school with have gone to eight.
They’ve moved beyond him in many ways, and what his mother
fears comes true.  They do not ask of Sam when she sees them.
They are timid with her.  She loses him again and again. And now,
she stops bringing treats on his birthday, does not come to teach
the reading group on Wednesday.  The Gingko tree planted
in his honor stands covered with snow. Sam is just another child
who died young.
His mother walks by the school, brushes the snow off the tree.
She works at the hospital and cares for the other children at home.
She cooks and talks with friends and always reads Frank Rich first
on Sunday.
But I grieve for my living child, know there are as many ways
of being dead as there are of dying.  Her second child, the elder
of “ Best Brothers,” is terminal with the same disease.
I watch her toil endlessly for more time as she loses herself
to the memory she’s buried; to keep Zach alive.
She’s an old star, shining too brightly, burning up light
from within.  As night closes in, I try to reach across the distance
that holds her before she implodes into the dark hole
of lost children.



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