Your voice, already disembodied,
sputtered in radio waves across half a continent
from your hospital room to my patchouli-
and-doily-ridden, creaky-floor-boarded B & B.

I recorded our talk in ink
so emphatically black it splodged
through to the other side of each notebook page
on which I nevertheless wrote

so that now your words arrive triply broken—
inaudible, illegible, and interrupted by my memory
of magnolia wallpaper and the looming armoire with the
    full-length mirror
at which I gazed almost unseeing while you

uttered staticky syllables that did not
entirely add up to “my body
dying around me” and “palliative care”
and which I would not, could not

entirely hear. You wanted
to finish your poems. I wanted
us never to finish a conversation
so imperfectly understood.

Rosanna Warren is the Hanna Holborn Gray Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College. She wrote “Notes” about poet and nonfiction writer Deborah Tall.

Reprinted from Ghost in a Red Hat by Rosanna Warren. Copyright © 2011 by Rosanna Warren. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company Inc. All rights reserved.