I've rewritten this poem about a dozen times and finally got to read it during service today at House For All Sinners and Saints. It was a bluegrass service to boot!
one perfect day (mark 6:53-56)
i walk into intensive care
and see my sister lying under
crisp white sheets.
a dozen beeping monitors gathered
closely around her bed.
i sit down.
she is still but waltzes.
she rushes to the respirator, then steps back.
she flows with the whirring dialysis and then pirouettes
around her suitor.
i watch her breathe for hours. the nurses come and go, i touch
the hems of their white skirts. they do not turn about.
the night nurse touches my sister’s brow
with a cool cloth. she does not stir.
i feed dollars to the coke machine at 2 AM.
we sleep on sofas in the family waiting rooms.
we wait for the doctor to tell us something. “she is no better,” he says
“she is growing worse.” as he leaves, i touch
his clothes. he does not turn about.
we go home to our beds.
the stars come out.
they orbit her.
she breathes them in.
she is in her bed but far away,
climbing mountains beyond mountains.
the nights come and go.
we lie awake. we are still.
we listen to the snow as it covers the prairie with sleep.
we wait for it to cover us. grateful for its soft numbing cold.
we fold our hands. we wait.
in her deep chemical sleep,
does she feel my fingers on her forehead? does she dream?
does she listen in on our unspoken prayers?
does she dream of the one perfect day she'd like to have
if she wakes up?
will she remember the god with whom she laughed
about all our fleeting lives?
did she ask for her one perfect day?
the one with sun on water, children and husband, song and dance?
did she grasp at the fringe of his cloak?
did he turn to her then, just as he was fading?
and was that the very same moment
that she at last opened her eyes
and looked so puzzled?