Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Doctor Said

The stroke was bad, and arriving at the hospital
we expected hushed, grim words
from the preoccupied doctor.
The doctor said it was brain-stem, hopeless;
the coma was total; his mind, the doctor said,
was at the bottom of a deep well.

So we entered his room and
saw the machinery of life-support,
reassuring noises, glowing red displays,
tubes and wires tethering his shattered mind to the bed.

The doctor said that Ed would not come back,
and we should cut off the milky food
flowing down a clear tube to his still living gut,
and give him a gentle death by starvation;
it would not be painful, the doctor knowingly said.

But his coma was so restless and active,
his eyes were wide and darting,
his mouth opened, as though to speak,
and his legs rose and fell,
like he was walking to Sunday Mass.

He looked alive, so we refused
and directed the nurses
to keep hope flowing,
at least for now.

When it was my turn to sit with him,
I said, “Hey Ed! You know,
I’ve been drinking all your beer at home,” and he smiled
and looked at me with humor and said, “ohhh?”

But the doctor said it was automatic reflex,
and smiled indulgently at me.

The next morning the doctor,
(expecting no response) said,
“Hello Ed. How are we feeling today?”
but stopped, nothing to say at last,
when Ed replied, “Lousy!”

Ed lived for the next three years
as grandchildren were born,
baptisms were witnessed,
and first communions were celebrated,

and ready at last, he died
one bright, peaceful
April morning,
with nothing more
to be said.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The afternoon breeze
rushes through the top of my big tree;
its canopy sways and sings in hushed tones
as the declining sun ignites
its outermost leaves
with green fire.

Through swaying limbs
I see brilliant summer sky
promising stars beyond
if only I can rise high enough
to achieve black space;
but I’ve never been there, never risen
beyond this illusionary, flat world
that confines my sight.

Never have I ascended that pillar of flame,
pressed deeply against the astronaut’s contoured seat,
breathing noisily in helmeted glass,
as computers glow reassuringly in darkness ,
promising that everything will work,
and orbit will be achieved.

No, my space journeys are all interior.

Earth-bound, I am firmly cradled in my deep, leather chair,
and only through my high, arched window
view the nightly dance of wind and tree,
of moon and rising stars.

Envious, I hear excited starlings, one to another,
tell stories of daring flight
through the good sky, high
above this green,
firm earth.