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 at the foot of her bed, he sat

Cradling his tired face in his hands

Lifting it each time the tempo of her breathing changed

First eyeing her then, me

Ashamed of his ambivalence

He will not ask


Standing to stave off the monotony

He joins me at her bedside, where

We hover over her

like midwives

waiting on the mystery of

body and breath.

She is drowning

in her own fluids

now bleeding 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

O tired soul.”

We exchange glances when she hesitates

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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