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They've Found a Shadow

Elisabeth Harvor
From:   The Long Cold Green Evenings of Spring. Vehicule Press, 1997


An ex-husband waits for a lab
report; winter, final decade


When he calls to tell me
his news (they've found a shadow
the size of a blurred grape in a lung)
I'm made ten times more mortal,

mortal by marriage,
I add up the years we
breathed the bad air
of the century

and after the doctors have
opened his chest in the nearby
hospital it used to amuse me
to call the Staph House

I picture a nurse
as she draws his wrist
in a low lift to her hip

so she can hold it,
pressed into the throb
of her listening stillness

while she lowers
her eyes to take a careful
count of his pulse.

I'd hate
above all things
to be in his place,
flat on my back and
made to feel what's important
is best politely forgotten,

to say nothing of my aversion
to bad food and pain,

(unless it's really
my ashamed love of pain)

hate to lie clamped
to the bed destiny
keeps always unkindly
in wait for me, hermetic
world organized into orange juice
and terror, bent glass straw
poked into ice chips,

distancing tinkle
of glass trays and needles

(hope, as usual,
precipitating sadness),

hate to get weepy
but afraid to let anyone
in power know it, hate to

regret things, I wonder if he does--
two days after the surgery his doctor
brings him a gift: a briefcase
made out of clear plastic,

drainage tubes
from the stitched
lung feed into it,

bubbles lift,
then slide back

in the tubes
when he breathes

(our sons tell me this--
they looked straight down
through his briefcase to
watch him breathe
in and out),

and so now when
he is up and about
he carries

a cargo of discharge
instead of papers and notes.

I picture him at night as
he totes his clear briefcase
filled with tubing and breath,

I see him pace off to
meet death (or a new life)

all the way down
to the end of the Fell Wing,

I see him look down to admire
what's three stories below
the tall windows of dark:

the grass and concrete
arrangements of the hospital park.



Elisabeth Harvor's works copyright © to the author.


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