After the snow stops
and the sky opens cloudless
over the mountains, and after
three pairs of cardinals
flutter back to our feeder,
I stand by the kitchen window
watching them as I did
two years ago this week,
talking to you on the phone,
tube in your throat capped,
strength, you said, coming back
to your arms and legs.
Then the snow started again
and you told me not to drive
the three hundred miles,
that you’d see me Thursday,
when we could walk together
the halls of that awful hospital.
I’ll see you Thursday, I kept saying
after you or I said something else,
or after one of that call’s many silences
in which I breathed you in
like I do today, until I can see you
out there beneath the spruce,
blue coat collar up,
dog barking and jumping,
your back stooped, left hand
waving me outside. I don’t
have to squeeze my eyes today
to hear you whisper my name
or feel your cracked lips on my cheek
when our time ran short.
And I can’t keep you from leaving,
as I couldn’t that Wednesday night,
toward the sun over the ridge,
your eyes a lighter blue than the sky’s,
your permed hair snowflaked
like the sweetbriar’s thin branches.

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