Issue 126, Spring 1993
My miracle cures left her of two minds.
Pillowed in the bed, she would seem to be
all acquiescence, even eagerness,
listened for doctors’ voices in the hall,
and seemed prepared to turn back the bedclothes
when they cared to look, or lay on their hands,
and coughed when they asked. But as she declined,
she pushed her food away and turned her eyes
from conversation and arriving cards.
She watched out the window. We moved the chairs,
rolled her vanity aside, and roped
back the fallen drapes to clear the view,
(all views she kept up in the air), in light
put out in what seemed vases of cut crystal
as she looked about, one on the sill, and one
beside the bed; it wavered and then vanished
as the shadows came and went under the thin
whim of cirrus clouds above the garden.
That night she lay unturned in the crumpled sheets,
and listened, and let her heart, like a small fish,
vanish from hearing with a gentle flutter;
then nothing but surface ripples in the bed
that looped and bellied like disturbed water,
till the carriers smoothed them flat. It was
her manner of detachment: the coffin
was braced between two chairs along the wall,
and was too large by half for her small frame.
She lay to one side: . . . but why even want
to be everywhere at once, she used to say.
Not that she tried. I think of all the things
she would get herself into day by day,
the bath and the bed, and the garden
where she pruned and seeded, carried water
and dumped water, and how she moved, always
silent, sure as the overspill of a spring
river: when pressed, it canters into lost
pools and runnels under rock, fills and then
empties back. It was a way she kept
herself clear for whatever might happen next.