For Donald Clark
Drugged and drowsy but not asleep
I heard my blind roommate's daughter
helping her with her meal:
“What's that? Squash?”
“No. It's spinach.”
Back from a brain-scan, she dozed
to the sound of the Soaps: adultery,
amnesia, shady business deals,
and long, white hospital halls....
No separation between life and art.
I heard two nurses whispering:
Mr. Malcomson had died.
An hour later one of them came to say
that a private room was free.
A chill spring breeze
perturbed the plastic drape.
I lay back on the new bed,
and had a vision of souls
stacked up like pelts
under my soul, which was ill—
so heavy with grief
it kept the others from rising.
No varicolored tubes
serpentined beneath the covers;
I had the vital signs of a healthy,
There was nothing to cut or dress,
remove or replace.
A week of stupor. Sun and moon
rose and set over the small enclosed
court, the trees....
The doctor’s face appeared
over the foot of the bed. By slow degrees
the outlandish sadness waned.
Restored to my living room
I looked at the tables, chairs, and pictures
with something like delight,
only pale, faint—as from a great height.
I let the phone ring; the mail
on the table in the hall.