The last movie we saw with you has been nominated for an award —
you’re not here to say I told you so.
The retractable back scratcher and chocolate bar
we were going to bring to you,
gifts picked up in the drugstore checkout line,
rest on the table by the door, getting dusty.

We talk of the things you tended on the earth.
The barbecue, the deck, the grape arbors
and the rain barrels to feed them,
the sprouts growing in the greenhouse.
The trails, the coastlines,
the crooked roads you led us down.
The big unfettered sound of your amusement.

Slowly, we begin to see the story in the black-and-white photographs:
the worried child you always were,
your knit brows and hopeful smile as if asking,
Is everything all right?
Did I do something wrong?

You were supposed to get better.

We baked a cake for you
and we brought it to the place you loved
and scattered the pieces like ashes.

It was your birthday without you.