Johnny is John now, and Billy is Bill.
Though I haven’t seen them in fifty years
it feels like we’re boys together still.
When his voice breaks, John’s boyhood face appears
across the miles, and when Bill speaks of storms
we survived on our barrier island home
I forget and call him Billy, which makes
John gasp because it hurts so much to laugh.
The cancer has come back. He says it takes
all his strength some mornings just to take half
a breath, but then there might be a whole day
when he can almost forget, like today.