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ALS: Early Symptoms

Shirtless, he shaves at the upstairs sink,
dips the brush, stirs the cup. The rind
of shaving soap softens to a luscious
froth. Every inch of his body is known
to me. He tilts the mirror, studies his chin.
His glasses rest on the edge of the sink,
temples crossed like hands in repose.
Fanning out across his chest, a visible web
of muscles twitch. Rippling, seismic
waves beneath the skin, so subtle
and sporadic they set off no alarms.

Despite his weakness, his worsening
limp, we have not yet begun to put
the pieces together. Above the crosshatch
of tiny wrinkles behind his ear, a dollop
of lather dries, a puff of meringue
the razor missed. Scent of musk
and sandalwood. Summer is coming,
full of promise. Who can blame us
for what we fail to notice on a night
like this? The house is warm as a hayloft,
moonlight drowses on the sill,
and all the windows are alive and open.

—From “Seaworthy,” @ 2018 River Rock Books

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