* on listening to Beethoven’s Opus 135, string quartet no. 16, third movement

A wind of dried tears speaks to me
whispers beyond the window pane

My patient waits so long in the holding room
he has fallen asleep
I wake him to have him slant sleep again
I will hide his person within his body
sing to him through tubes and infusions

In the fields, the harvest moon
brushes cracked stalks with shadow
calls to future snows

Like a touch on my shoulder
I feel a yearning, and there it is
an egret alights in the marsh

My patient asks if I know his surgeon
the one he just met; yes, yes I am quick to reassure
she is wonderful. Patients want to believe
must believe, having heeded the call to arms
to service, to silence

Oh, what have I done with this life
this love, this light, the cellophaned
memories trapped in photograph albums
of my children’s youth

Now wordless, my patient asks me
to hold his hand, to pull him up
from the oblivion his shadow self knows

Trees, slate in the darkness, are still trees

I pull my patient towards himself
come, I say, breathe
your life awaits you.