whether you are thirteen
or twenty-two

it is hard to grasp
that there will not always
be one more day
or at least
a few more hours

to sit beside them and
tell them you hope they
feel better

to have them ask you
how you’re doing
and tell you to make
sure you work hard
like your parents have

to hear them say
“ah-youk vheng” when
you say goodbye

at thirteen
and at twenty-two

on days when i
had expected
to say hello
one more time

i didn’t even have
a chance to say goodbye
one last time

of course
it happens like that
it is always a surprise;

there is no
preparation for the
reality of absence
no matter how long
it’s been expected.