An old man was dying in the hospital,
—-my friend the doctor told me.
He was eighty-nine, his whole life a tailor in a shop
—-below the room where he was born.
He had no one, so a kind aide from Ghana
—-sat with him, one hand in his
the other holding her sandwich. The waves
—-on the monitor slowed. His heart
was a small red boat on the long tide
—-going out. At the end he opened
his eyes. Cool air, Cool air, he said, and because it
—-was the twelfth floor, the windows sealed,
the aide leans over and exhales softly on the top of
—-his head, to ruffle his hair a bit,
and they stay like that for a few minutes until
—-he dies, his face turned to the breeze.
That was a long time ago. My friend is gone;
—-the hospital’s become a vacant lot.
Some nights I wake with those words in my ear,
—-unsure if they’re the plea of the old Jew
or the answering breath of the African woman,
—-or the beautiful lie that binds them,
like a dart and a seam; the cold clarity of glass
—-and the wide blue draft beyond.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.