Three souls left the hospital today,
without formality of discharge.
Above three beds,
air wrinkled briefly,
as if from transient heat.
There’s not always time
to catch a candle’s last whisper,
before it expires in smoke.
“Now she may find it easier
managing my affairs;
certainly managing hers.”
“I opened the window,
closed my eyes, and stopped my heart;
a bird I’d never heard before
sang outside an empty room.”
“All I can say for sure
is the constellations look different.”
The Tree That Split Them
Her husband murmurs to the hospital chaplain,
“It’s a terrible disease. She can break a bone
just lying in bed.” The chaplain knows.
He was with a family once,
when the spine of their ten-year-old
little-leaguer collapsed like eggshells.
She will go home to hospice care, little Chloe
never allowed on Grandma’s bed again,
or the dog to put his paws up.
Even a disease must eat. And when
our frame cannot sustain its appetite,
there is a place prepared.
Two rocks that once were one
cleave in their pasture. The tree
that split them diminishes sky.
No use blaming tree, nor moon
reduced to half a moon.
Summer twilight, air so humid and still
even in shorts legs seem to wear wool.
Digesting the casserole of artichoke
and shrimp, we converse dutifully,
retreat to the white birdcage on the lawn.
Like Boston, it’s a hub of circumference:
we look out at little people, moving far
away, like us but sweatier, less judicious.
A gazebo is open on all sides of an issue.
We feel able to call the midterm elections
with just lemonade and handheld fans.
Flowering Caitlyn eases her sundress
a few degrees above modesty, reducing
to non-sequitur the testy Professor’s
comparison of Almaviva and Giovanni.
It delights us to see him inarticulate.
Was it the way of the sun this morning,
how it pushed reefs of coral into the sky
ahead of it?—
Sailors took warning,
but I watched with a young man’s eye:
young man for whom little will do
but to call somebody away from toast.
My ribs were Jacob’s ladder then.
You climbed, angel, up and down.
Now, to find remains of wall beneath
the ground, you’d be an archaeologist.
I stood straighter than I have in years,
to judge by my shadow on the house.
Intake of breath uplifted you,
as at Ogunquit thirty-five years ago.
Tonight, if we leave the light off, so
as not to see each other or ourselves,
perhaps the tide will come in again.
Russell Rowland lives in New Hampshire and appears in over a
hundred small journals. He was the 2007 recipient of Descant
Magazine's Baskerville Publisher's Award and Featured Poet in
The Aurorean. He has
received three Pushcart Prize nominations.