For Helen Francis-Lang ("The English Patient")
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
It happens every time I see
A woman with wavy blond
Hair to her shoulders, her stride
I think , Helen, of you.
The embroidered shoes you bought
In India on your tiger tour “for a steal”
The 3 pairs of shoes you bought
“on sale” in Maiden Lane saving more
than I would spend on shoes in 3 years.
Your superb intellect, your scientific integrity
Your caustic pronouncements, from railing at big
pharma for the blockbuster
drug model, to the quirks of storied
geneticists from years past.
Your striding into the office
shaking your head
at the “goddam traffic on 101! It took me,
wait for it,
2 hour and 15 minutes to get here this morning!”
as I held my sides.
Walking with you in August 2008 at the Relay
for Life before any of us had imagined
of four words.
Your email on November 30, 2008, telling me of
“ovarian clear cell carcinoma” the day
before your first surgery.
Lunch with you on December 6, 2008.
“I’m scared” you had said.
My heart was breaking
my invincible friend.
“The English Patient” you called yourself, wry and witty
through it all.
March 20, 2009
The most aggressive tumor
they had ever seen, the doctors said.
You were 44
not ready to die.
In August 2009, I walked in your memory, Helen, at the Relay for Life.
You walked beside me, didn’t you
in a chiffon-y skirt
and very, very stylish shoes (need I even say)
with perfectly done nails
brushing back your hair
your own golden mane or that
The luminaria were sometimes
hard to see, my eyes
But I saw you, Helen.
You looked absolutely fabulous.