Burt and Astrid had sat down at one of the outdoor tables outside the Encinitas Cafe along the Pacific Coast Highway.
I sat down at the single table next to theirs
Burt, from his wheelchair, had noticed the bundle of books
I had dumped from my shoulder onto my breakfast table,
Startling some spoons and a left behind saucer, and remarked:
“You’re an author, aren’t you?”
“Why would you think?” was my reply.
“I don’t think, I know”.
Astrid tucked Burt’s napkin under his chin.
She was his nurse and his wife.
“Because nobody but an author would carry so many copies of the same book around”, Burt said.
“Burt used to write before he got sick”, Astrid explained.
Burt coughed long into his napkin.
“I’m sorry’, I said, just because I meant it.
Burt finished coughing and reached with his hand gesturing
To pass him my book.
I did and Burt leafed through the pages,
Feeling the clay surface of the paper with his fingers.
“You’re a poet! Very brave.”, Burt pronounced.
And then we talked about poets ancient and new.
We compared reading Rilke, Neruda, Pushkin,
and others both living and dead
I felt like I was visiting my old college roommate
Who had studied the exact same subject as me.
We spent nearly 2 hours over breakfast
Until Burt began to speak Yiddish to Astrid.
Astrid replied in kind.
The moment we shared peeled like a bell across time.
Awaking the ghosts of my ancestors.
Astrid rose from her chair to roll back Burt’s wheels
And then they just left
With my book on Burt’s lap in his chair.
This is Astrid we had the pleasure to meet you my husband and I in Encinitas this summer and had a most pleasant conversation. You gifted us a copy of your book I just wanted to let you know Burt passed away August 23 We really enjoyed meeting you especially Burt….