Be the Air You Want to Breathe, and Other Foolish Holidays (working title)
Sitting on the side of your bed, trying to breathe
you say, “It’s good to see you.” I see your chest
shudder (trapped moths) beneath your white undershirt.
for both of us. I see your hair is not combed (spider webs).
tendrils of smoke from a neighbor’s chimney.
I see your empty water bottle, tissues like white mice on the floor.
Each time they ask, I breathe
for your lungs–twin beggars.
I see a host of gold ladybugs flank your watery blue
eyes, or is that the patina of lived long enough?
having looked into them or not quite at the pair
for so many years it is hard to see what is new
what is old. Only the painter hired to rip cabbage
roses from the front bedroom sees the peeling paper,
only the roofer shimmying past flaking slate sees the holes
beneath the tar paper—the rest of us too busy mopping
rainwater, trying to remember which one tried to fly
from the second story pitch with an umbrella in one hand.
I open the door as the stretcher breezes in and I see blue sky,
the tips of forsythia trying to take in enough resurrection
enough of what this day has to offer, to push their yellow
eyes past shelter’s thin shell
into oxygen’s invisible embrace.