By Betsy Nelson
What Was Forgotten?
What had he forgotten
when he rose from his bed in the late darkness,
wandered to the kitchen where I read a book,
sipped a cup of tea,
recovered from a hard day’s work?
What day is it? he asked.
He had forgotten.
Tuesday, I reply.
Friday? he asks.
No, Tuesday, I repeat.
What time is it?
1 o’clock I say.
Is it the afternoon
or the night time?
I gesture out the picture window
where geraniums in boxes
Look out the window, I suggest.
If it’s dark,
it’s the night time.
If there’s light,
it’s the day time.
After peering at the window,
decked with flowers
profiled against the glass, he asks:
Will it get darker?
I can’t answer this,
but my mind is wondering
Will it get darker?
Perhaps the moon will change things.
The Breath Living In Pine Trees
When he took his last breath
his granddaughter held one hand,
his daughter the other, both his hands
cool and blue, smooth as feathers.
He could hear their astonishment
that he would not follow
this breath with another.
They had nurtured a faith that each
swallow of air beat an eternal rhythm.
They leaned closer, waiting. His wife
flew away unseen –
Moving through the window, leaving a touch
on the pine trunks, spinning among the wrens
and chickadees who hopped up the ridges
following lacy insects.
Soaring through needles to a sky stiffened
by diffused sunlight.
Enraptured by an energy filling the blue,
filling her chest full as a bellows.
Struck by sharp beams reflected from still
puddles, boxes of jewels.
Stunned that her new breath would not be
her last, the needles of rutted pines
could still prick the veins through her awakened
skin, the sky would open
for swimming to a mysterious world,
the next hand held would
be filled with an exotic warmth.
Pine Groves and Dark Water
If you can’t understand your father at first, curling
like a leaf in his wheelchair,
at his garden with rhubarb
leaves broad as platters,
his pine trees planted in groves
with fountains of resin, branch ladders.
If you can’t comprehend your husband at first,
the invisible who speak to him,
at the coffee-can sparrow houses
he nailed to the clapboards,
his arbors still laden
with taut purple grapes.
If you can’t touch your grandfather,
who called you “my pet,”
and open the slim diary
he kept in his khaki pocket
in the trenches,
through clawing clouds of mustard gas,
through the French orchards plucked bare
for their cannoneers’ meals.
If you miss your son, far away, growing
cactus and lemons in his desert yard,
at the hummingbird he reached
with the tips of his fingers,
the golden muskelunge
he cradled, unhooked,
and slid into dark water.