It's just poetry, it won't bite


07.04.13 Posted in words to linger on by

Christopher Roe’s most recent poem to appear here was The Key (June 2013).

By Christopher Roe

The palpable silence of the room, the brittle stillness of the air
efficiency humming all around us. The frail figure on the bed
once so vibrant, once so familiar–a stranger now.
Whatever we had, had been had and would never exist again.
In the hallway, loud laughter.
Don’t they know?
A family visiting a loved one who will get well.
All the flowers and stuffed animals and colorful balloons,
half eaten lime Jello on the table, the spoon still warm.
Don’t they know?
Life playing out all around us. Outside people
walking to their cars, their day finished.
A pregnant woman exits a taxi and is wheeled 
through the doors, the nervous husband
trailing behind wrestling with her luggage
like they were going on a trip–which they were.
Don’t they know?
The priest stops by. A stranger among strangers
who prays for a dying stranger with practiced detachment.
Memories are already beginning to fade like the flowers
of last week. And you realize that any new memories
that come will be forever incomplete like a record skipping.
And a new sense of aloneness descends like a fog.
Don’t they know?
And when the moment of death’s inexorable visitation comes,
and the doctor makes his pronouncement, noting the time
and signing a form as the nurse quickly turns off
all the machines of life, intensifying the fragile silence
Don’t they know?
No one moves for a long time, then a chair scrapes loudly
on the tiled floor, shattering the darkness of our fugue.
Someone says, “Well … ” And someone else says
“We should all meet at the so-and-so restaurant.”
I am not hungry even though I feel empty
as I say a final goodbye.
Don’t they know?
We slowly file from the room, a last glance back
reveals only a sheet draped mound upon the bed,
and you still cling to the insane hope
that a mistake has been made and there will be
just a little more time. For words we neglected to say
more laughs, more tears, more time.
Don’t they know?
But there will be no more and it’s like a book you finished reading.
You think of the life that was and it’s the odd, forgotten moments
that surface now, made fresh for having been absent so long.
And you think of the pain that has ended and of the pain to come.
Don’t they know?
And you smile through gathering tears as you walk outside
wondering if the new ache in your chest and the throat
that feels strangled will ever go away. And the air is different
but the birds are singing, the sun is shining and you look
wistfully up at the sky, and comfort yourself with thoughts
of reunions with lost children happening out beyond the clouds.
Yet the world feels somehow emptier. And, of course, it is.

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