Body and Breath: A Poem

We marked time by the rhythm of her breath

tick tocking in the hushed anticipation

of her leave taking.

Like an old coat he lay draped on the foot of her bed,

Cradling his tired face in his hands

Lifting it each time the tempo of her breathing changed

eyeing her then, me

ashamed of his ambivalence.

He will not ask,

“Now?”

Standing to stave off the monotony

He joins me at her bedside, where,

midwives, we are

hovering

waiting on the mysteries of

body and breath.

The woman is drowning

in a flood of her own fluids,

now oozing through her flesh,

taut and translucent

a shimmering dirigible

that lies expressionless

Breathing, Breathing, Breathing

unrelenting and resolute

it seems desperate to remain in this world

despite his entreaties:

“let go and take your rest.

I know you are tired.”

We trade anxious glances when she stops mid-breath.

Unconsciously mimicking her we stop breathing

until a defiant exhalation

indicts our impatience

Insisting we follow her breath

To the end

Which arrives in the silence

That follows a sigh

A lone tear traces a path

Down her cheek

That he catches with his finger.

Touching it to his tongue

he tastes

her absence.

David Heaney, February, 2018

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