Kissing Chemotherapy, For Travis

A strange memoir for myself
in blending my memorandum for Travis;
in this (poem) ... of silence
I see years

1987-2007, 19 - or 6 (the number on your
high school football jersey), or even 'C'
for captain.

I remember Travis, in his auburn haired glory
of summer glows, when we (the kids of the neighborhood)
the rulers, kings and queens bathed in the strength of too much
youth. Where we, ran, wild, with the shadows lying long
and lazy across the ground - through the park, and the woods
playing capture the flag - boys against girls,

or how, giggling, we hid in the same rotted tree stump -
traitors to our genders, traitors to time.

Ten years ago, when you were in forth grade, and I
was in six grade, I waited by the school bus, while
Mrs. Engle yelled at you in frustration, because
you kept all of your homework assignments in crumpled
balls at the bottom of your backpack. Lined cranes sailing
on a tide of chicken scratch writing - I wish
that I had saved one of those flying notes; half
secret observations, half English assignment.

Or how, in Jr. High, I lost track of you, still running
on the fields of elementary school. Still chasing something ...
deeper

in
the
distance.

It feels strange to write this.

While I was falling in love with boys who would
never grow to love me back, you were doodling cartoons,
and while I was starving for attention, you were
the emperor of our high school halls. Halls, that resemble
so much, the lines on your scull. Lines, formed, by
permanent markers when the doctors charted the separation
and exactness of the tumors that slept, and fed on you there.

It feels strange to write this.

Like,
1987-2007, 19 - or 6 (the number on your
high school football jersey), or even 'C'
for captain.

It feels strange to say that you died last Tuesday,
stranger still that on that day, I had a beer
in my hand. Unknowing.

And, simply, your photograph, the one of you
looking as dreamy as any Hollywood actor;
hair, a mossy tangle, eyes, staring at me. Finding
me across the years. A ghost, in living black
and white form.

You aren't the first person that I watched die from
cancer. Not the first boy, I wished greater thing for.
Not the last.

I chose to remember in this strange memoir for myself
blending into my memorandum for you, Travis, that day in summer
a few weeks before my senior year started when I sat on the
grass in the back of the school, only to find you
shirtless and moist (like a paramour from some cheap romance novel)
walking up the hill to me. "Hi" you said. Oblivious. Recognizing me
as woman (I hoped) and no longer girl. I smiled back.
Shy. Gaily. I was still with Tyler then. But the ties were breaking.

I was still unready to find my reflection in the mirror, but I
hope that on that day you saw it.

It feels strange to write this.

But, in the story that I read about you from the newspaper it
says that you died with your parents in the room.
Your long time girlfriend by your side.

I wonder about her. Her nameless form, holding your
cold hand at the end. Who was she? And was she good
enough to love you at the end? I am sisterly,
motherly, wishing that I had kept in touch. Wishing
that I could run with you on those grassy fields
of our youth again: I would make the shadows stand at
attention, and bow down to you. I would make the world
shift, and change for you. I would make you well again.

And this girl that you loved?

If I had been her, I would have proposed to you in that
hospital bed, worn a white dress with bare feet in that
confining room. Kissed dray lips to taste the chemotherapy
on them ( so painful that the doctors called it the sledgehammer)

our bridal chamber would have been adorned with respirators
and machinery pumping life and death into us. I would
have laid with you in that room, watching as the moon
grew thorns, and I, reaching my palm out to scratch it,
would have captured it - our flag of truth. Togetherness. It would
hold you to me, like a tide, flowing like blood, it would
rush to your face and then fade away.

You faded away from me, so long ago, it feels strange to
say this. It feels strange to remember the shape of your mouth
when I never kissed it. Never felt you any stronger then
a boy breathing hot and ragged breaths beside me in a rotted
tree stump in the woods. Rasping but hot and exhilarated from
too much running.

I giggled that year. An eleven year old girl on the cusp of something.
A journey, that unknowingly that day, would lead to this day.
With the knowledge that you died last Tuesday, where I,
and not you were alone at the end of a life that I had no idea was
ending.

To think of those halls. The hospital, where they sped me after
my car accident, the same halls where you died. Or how, last summer
I stepped through those sterilized corridors after my father had his surgery.
Were you to, trapped in those memories? Those still moments
in the night when I walked, slightly orphaned. Past your
hospital door maybe? Taking the steps that you no longer could.

Sentimentally, in those childhood shadows I take your hand:
"You ready Travis?" Yes. We run on together.

A/N: He died Tuesday, March 27th from bone cancer. I've only written one other poem about Travis that I've posted on Fictionpress. It was posted back in 2005, shortly after finding out that he was ill.

"I Remember Travis in 97"