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He Was Sick

by jerrod laber


His name was John,

and for a long time


that was all I knew.


...John. Uncle John.

Like John of the Cross


and John the Baptist.


Or John Fitzgerald Kennedy,

his namesake. I also knew that.


He shared that in common


with many Catholic boys

born in the late 1960s.


I knew that he was dead.


He was dead as his namesake

was dead—much too young.

...how did he die?


He was an affect.

He was a stammer, an awkward silence,


a side-eyed glance—


an evasion of the question.

He was sick, they all said,


clearly hoping to leave it at that.


An epitaph that writes itself.

His defining feature, the same canned refrain—


he was sick.


I did not know the man,

only the reductive, fragmented story


of his illness.


His name was John.

He was my uncle.


He is dead.


This is the sum of what I know.

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Image by Bree Anne
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