I sat vigil over Tony’s bedside
for sixteen hours before he died
on Christmas Eve, five days before
his nineteenth birthday.
Nurses came and went, checking his vitals,
propping his pillows, asking if he needed
warm blankets or the window opened.
We traded cancer stories and laughed about how
the hospital food reminded us of radiation treatment.
I went through 37 rounds
and had been cancer-free for nine months.
He went through 28 twice before the cancer
came back and took over his entire body.
When I got to the hospital, Tony was frail,
pale-skinned, and frequently lost his breath
in the middle of a good memory.
He died just before midnight,
as the Christmas carolers sang from down the hall.
I remained at his empty bedside
long into the silence of morning,
sitting vigil over what could have been me.
© 2014 by Charles banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel
Excerpt from Burdens
Published by Spilt Ink Poetry