On the way to see a friend
who might have died like Keats,
her lungs, like his, consumed to lace,
I pass them, a nimbus of women
in starched white gowns
surrounding the door to David’s room.
Each day they whisper, flip coins,
decide who must bring his dinner in.
Afraid to breathe his air, they must
go home dreading night sweats,
scales registering less each day.
Sometimes I see him in the moments
when the door swings open, closed.
He’s beautiful, a Carravagio Cupid,
dark hair, darker eyes, curved
shoulder blades hinting of wings,
and he stares out the window
across the valley just beginning to blossom,
as if somewhere in the puzzle
of bare trees lies the reason
he’s left alone, his body collapsing
in on itself like the building he saw
dynamited on Public Square, or the final
moments of a star. In Michigan,
a man driving home sees a dog
cowering at the center of the road,
swerves into the path of a semi.
On the news I see his shattered
windshield. It resembles, in the light
of setting sun, luminous pools of blood.
Another world, my friend’s room,
heart-shaped balloons tied to her bedrails,
air perfumed with tiger lilies, yellow roses,
baby’s breath. From her fourth floor window
we watch a helicopter setting down
in a baseball diamond, the only open ground
for miles. It has crossed some distance
we can only imagine, delivers to a waiting ambulance
a chest no larger than a picnic basket,
its sides inscribed with red crosses.
Then, in a flurry of dust and dead leaves
the copter rises, its canary yellow frame
disappearing, she says, like a dream
she can no longer believe in.
At twenty, I saw a boy vanish beneath
the frozen surface of Lake Erie,
his breath suspended in the frigid air.
I remember how the ice zigzagged under me
as I reached out, pulled him towards light,
and my mothers disbelief
when I told her, how pale she was, and angry.
My friend, too, is surprised,
says I was impulsive, foolish.
She cannot understand, as I believe David does,
some things are worth risking everything for,
even the love, however brief, of a stranger.