THE BREATHING MASK
i.m.: Patricia Lewis Smith, 1953-2005
The breathing mask slipped from your sleeping face;
Alarm bells sounded to alert the nurse.
By Monday, you'd be comatose, but worse
Was this drugged drowse beginning to erase
The wife I loved, as from some distant place,
Speech slurred by morphine, you began to rise:
The wiring all undone, death in your eyes,
Your heartbeat's scrawl gone still without a trace.
In the blunt country of your agony,
By what strange chance did that obscene alarm
So closely mime our bedside clock at home?
The last words you would ever say to me—
"We gotta go to work!"—meant to disarm.
Then, the abysmal silences to come.
THE TRUTH OF YOUR RIGHT FOOT
"A name is not a leash."
All of our bones are pilgrims, truth be told,
Journeying far beyond their sheaths of flesh
Toward dreams of incandescence that unfold
Deep in our inmost darkness. Pliant, fresh,
They burn the slow fuse of the marrow low;
Patient as saints, they bear our loneliness;
The farthest stars are kindled by their glow;
They flare out bravely in the emptiness.
But, after all, a name is not a leash;
Naming the body does not make it ours—
It is the expectation of release
That finds us at the summit of our powers.
The truth of your right foot is that it stands
Firm and unmoved upon unstable sands.