Sudden summer rain, warm on your back
_____like asperges slashes,
more of a blessing than anything
to get dolloped in the eye and laugh away
_____the shame of believing
in any kind of redemptive wash
to get to the glass door before the stroup of sky
_____spills, to be the chaplain
carrying in the far side of the walls.
Such an inconvenience to bring an umbrella
_____in through the ER
best to leave these skinny hands free,
too much weather for environmental
_____services to mop up
between toddlers and their foil balloons.
It’s impossible not to ask how ya doin’?
_____in the elevator for
the badge says I have to care, and for
three floors I do. Then for three minutes I talk
_____to a nurse washing a big
baby boy whose green skin sloughs off
like bruised fruit skins. He died before any eye
_____saw his angry face. And Job wished
for this? To move straight from womb to grave?
Or was it perfect immersion he sought,
_____to soak between his mother’s arms
suspended in pink-green marble
for weeks his mother either knowing or not
______knowing. Theirs could be no
broken, track-lit eternal pietà.
The jaundiced patient sleeps in a white sponge,
_____drying out, her husband
entranced, two quarters between his fingers.
His solace is a mouth firmly closed and
_____her wide silver gaze
as blind as her people before her.
Best to leave both hands free for hoisting her head
_____without spilling the coins
and for fetching Purell, which kills everything:
every body’s soupy human smell, the scent
_____of blood and grimy dust-mixed rain
on button-down clothes.
A den of comforters in ICU waiting:
_____Fig Newtons and pajama legs
looped over bright sofa armrests
squirming flannel piles watching a film.
_____A rote boy twists a Trans Am
into a phoenix, verse by hinged verse.
When the doctor asks for questions, he says
_____Why can’t you just put in a new
lung? That is, The whole must be preserved
in all its parts. I clock out. At four
_____am it is still raining.
The cocked hammer of a fat drop hits
a window unit. The gutters rush water.
_____A thin spout trembles beneath
a waterfall after the world tilts square.
And it tilts square for the baby and brother,
_____the mother and the man.
For the lost I think it flows straight up.
See how I twist the flume into a firebird,
_____the drops preened like feathers.
The world tilts somewhere for someone,
best to leave hands free for the safety bar
_____I don’t go anywhere near.
I just want to hear the water
uncontained, taking its own shape,
_____sky after sky full of it,
more than a blessing than anything
one drop replacing one drop on the skin
_____of a big metal drum,
the outcast maker of phony cold air.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.