I have seen many ready, and in the ready place I have seen many put down their boats.
The now dead who I think of as dimples in tangerines are abrasions and must be swallowing somewhere, must be undoing the buttons of their pants in freed legless form.
I have watched forty people die and with each blowing I wondered if it was supposed to get easier, or harder, or sweeter
or if the inside of their inside was just outside now.
The terrible dead who I think of as Moorish warriors wearing metal hides heed rolling trumpets and sonnets for their long lost heart parts. They hop pad to park, crossing the pain ridge of Elysium, standing jagged in the Hemlock undoing themselves to lie in mossy tithes,
because I would.
Dorothy tried to fly out the window.
Hand floating on top of the top shelf she dove crooned to Beloved for he was waiting outside.
I saw her sawing him.
Above the garden, stirring the chickens whom didn't know they were the Chapel;
vowing never candled so much to Pasty Cline.
Butterscotch hard candy unwrappers, unpeeling,
her skin stayed so delicate til the end.
I carried her,
limp unused womb back to sunlight linens,
she wore pearls in her prom pictures and by thirty she had laid down in the dull walled asylum too sterile to beat her sanity back.
I smoothed the wrinkles of her last lace nightgown.
I filled her room with yellow hydrangeas because she is just east of Wichita, Kansas
though sunflowers are the state flower
I know she must have liked the color.
I asked her to wait and she held on for eight days aspirating until my hand returned,
floating on top of hers she heaved to the sandy shore
and I swear I saw him waiting.
People look like angels,
People grow old into their halos.
"Are you my angel?" they say
as I turn them to side,
over on crooked shoulder,
they must not mind the latex barrier between
and I wish I didn't have to wear them.
The tragedy of medicine is the canal. The crosshairs of the polyeuthathanes wall.
Goodness-wall opens it legs and arms in one motion, whereas the good mother touches,
shoots up the sweat of her sick child.
The good mother is the carrion. The good mother is the blood.
Crying medicine talks only to sickness.
It says "Sit up to swallow."
The tragedy of medicine is its lack of melody. Nurses assault men with applesauce.
With vinyl gloves. With hoyers.
White dresses. White shoes. White socks. White shoelaces. White hair.
The white mothers are chalk mothers with spotted lozenges.
The men are dissolving disk shapes in plastic coated mouths.
Her face is a container, blonde lid for the container.
Slowly sit up and swallow.
Harmful if swallowed.
Hospice nurses are frozen, designed to dissolve.
Her procedure supervisor is a request for help
a request for help
for the ingestion carrion bottle.
She gives people expiration dates at their cranking
like a batch of eggs on a streamline conveyor belt.
I hate her. She stuffs their mouths and denies a man his right to pain.
Juanita was my first. I was very young then.
Sleeping in the night-church I heard her whisper
Her anger was a stiffness.
She'd swing out and I hated when she spilled her coffee.
"Ernest!" she'd shout, rolling.
"Ernest you double crosser. I'm all alone.
Exiled, I was scrawling something perfectly black,
and I knew the fallible symbol her goneness had took.
I once shot a horse in the head but it wasn't the same.
It was screaming like Picasso, pierced-post kabob horse on fence.
Her appaloosa dapples twinkled and throbbed into little
tributary rivers into the Milky Way.
The mare's name was Moony, which now is funny thinking of all of the blood
I gave her a ritual gunshot and didn't even think to say goodbye.
I saw you, Edward, MIT engineer, wondering about the right tool for the job. Pious father,
working the grime of an Ohio rubber factory, reading your six straw-haired children Chaucer and Milton. "Where are they now?" You ask with bullshit nostrils. "How do we leave here? What car do we take?" His fingers methodically undoing a seatbelt. I took-hands coaxed him on a cot, in a dream, into the blinding hallway, rolling together, me, Virgil, I lead him but to Paradise because he was Christian, because at his funeral we read from a palm leaf. Only one foot in and he woke up screaming, only I couldn't shoot him this time.
Hildegarde Octavia has overshot one hundred, transversed St. Louis to Mongolia, rolling hills, undoing folklore, bored she no longer watercolors for her daughters because they too are tired watercolors. She is grayer every morning. Outward the fog is more like a veil that starts to show itself. She is grayer in the twilight. Still without glasses she reads a novel about Lyell, a cowboy who chaparral prays. I gave her a book about angels with influenza in the World War, she loved it. I gave her a book about unicorns and she told me it was a lie. At night I blanket her down, watching as the red writings in God's red pen scrawl further across her back. If I could translate them I know they will help me answer her when she weeps, "Has Jesus forgotten me?" No, I say. All breasts and belly. Arthur was my husband, he tall and strong and has been gone. How long? I think I am one hundred and one. She weaves like a pent up horse, restless, woman-sailor stranded at sea. How do I die? I don't know the ethics of my answer. You can stop eating. She breaks wide, I'll be going to hell, I like devil's food. I am at the bardo window, I am the lookout. With great gratitude I pulse, a river into the ocean: you must let go of the boat. I am service, but this sailing vessel, with its legs and chest and shoulders does hold abundance, does not serve you anymore. Folding back into the afghan she crocheted, I wish her goodnight: until sunrise.