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On the hospital bed, a body:
long, straight, and still
breathing, though the eyes don’t open
and the ears can’t hear.
No sound escapes the body’s vocal cords
to slip across its lips.

Two women on straight-backed chairs
watch and wait.
The woman who is the mother naturally
insists on hoping. Says she sees
eyelashes flutter, the chest heave slightly
more than usual, lips quiver.
Believes she hears a sigh. Sees
a tinge of color where there’s pallor.

The other woman, a friend, observes
the monitor pulsing faintly,
fainter. Messages
from lungs, heart, brain
reduced to erratic graph lines.
She hears the monotonous drip
of fluid into plastic,
the incessant hum and whirr.

Neither woman knows for sure
the outcome of her waiting.
The IC unit’s air-conditioned,
sterile, windowless.
Day after day sun blossoms in the east
and slides behind the west horizon
after supper. The women, waiting,
cannot see it. Cannot hear

the cheeky sparrow
chirping in a maple.
The willful west wind

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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