Two Poems

Paul Carroll

Salvia

It has stared at us for thirty years,
the scar they drew when your heart
objected to the material world.
That morning the salvia needed trimming
and the sun was brilliant but you
were dying in the windowless room
as if you needed to concentrate
on what was being shed:
only your body
within the body of the world
within a body of stars and so
I hammered your chest without doubt,
as much to keep your shape
as convince your blood to circle on its own.
And I saw in the living an effort to remain
things in a collection of things:
people chatting in lines or gathering in fields
like trinkets or coins.
And I made you keep your membership,
my mouth to yours, blowing, blowing
until they arrived like workers for their queen,
fire engines and a bright ambulance.
I counted in the emergency room
eleven people who touched you or your gurney
or the paraphernalia of hope,
the tubes of air and liquid that tied you
puppet-like to this world before
they cracked your ribs, removed your heart
and rubbed it like a favorite vase.
You stayed,
fragile, yes, but so dimensional
and this morning left a list of things to do:
presents for the twins,
trim the salvia, dinner with friends.

 

Vigil

You could see that she was caught
but wanted no escape, the way she tapped
her chest and refused the hammock chair

that fought her body’s need to be alert,
and looked at the foothills where night herons
woke and flew, and checked her watch to time

the morphine shots for her brother
in the hospice bed just beyond the porch.
She thought of a cartoon character shot

by a cannon and the light shining through.
She wanted that for everything, for the
question on his silent face and the tumor

where his neck and shoulder used to meet.
No comfort in the punctual appearance
of stars, none in her provision of comfort,

she wanted the opposite of time, the sum
of moments when nothing mattered.
And she wanted, but knew, there wasn’t oneness,

no miraculous circle, no rhythm or return,
just the illusion of trees gone blue
in the dark and the skelter of bats

from nothing but hunger and this need
to collect: his cold hands,
his last night, his breath leaking into the grass.