In the Coma

My friend was in a coma, so I dove
Deep into his brain to word him back. I tried

To sing Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So in
Ray Charles’s voice. Of course the silence grew.

I couldn’t sing the alphabet song. My voice
Couldn’t say words I knew: Because I Could
Not Stop for Death, He Kindly Stopped for Me.

I couldn’t remember the Dodgers and the Giants.

I tried to tell the stories that he and I
Studied when we were young. It was confused,
The Invisible Man was laughing at how a man
Felt History jump out of his thick fair head
And beat him half to death, as being the nightmare
Out of which Isaac Babel tried to awake.

The quiet. Next time won’t you sing with me.
Those great diminished chords: A girl I know.

The cold of the coma, lightless. The ocean floor.

I struggled to tell things back from decades gone.
The mournful American soldier testifying
About My Lai: I shot the older lady.

Viola Liuzzo, Spiro Agnew, Jim Jones.

And by the time I count from one to four
I hear her knocking. Quiet of the deep,
Our mouths are open but we cannot sing.

More Poems by Robert Pinsky