September 19, 2013

Laura Bernstein


It’s hours past that impossible midnight drive:
I half-supporting, half-pleading
you from bed to car, liquid pain brilliant
behind your eyes, across your skull,
your spine radiating red
beneath the skin of your back.
And it’s hours after the emergency room
winked its door shut, thick-eyed
orderly ushering you toward isolation
somewhere upstairs, me toward a parking lot
reinvented by morning sun:

I am heavy and bruised as pond water for lack
of sleep, still nursing half-opened wounds of terror.
Hulking behind a newly-foreign dashboard,
negotiating potholes and street signs

and the faces of strangers etched like phantoms
across my windshield; this is automatic
as my snare drum pulse thudding in time
to the songs on the radio.

At home the knotted bedclothes greet me
without despair.
Rest, said the doctor, this boy playing
adult in creased green scrubs
and serious expression. Return masked
and gloved, cheerful.

He tells me incubation is twenty-one days;
I must watch myself for fever.
For now I will read the patch of yellow sky
through my bedroom window as promise.
This light, embedded strongly as your scent
in the fabric of the pillow: I swallow
it whole, breathe it deep
into my good lungs for all I’m worth.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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