Brief Visit
He was in the room, under the sheet, no air conditioning,
the windows all open, little traffic noise.
The smell of medicine in 1950,
needles boiling on the stove.
I heard my mother say that he saw Jesus
at the foot of his bed the night before. Cancer.
Many shots into the hip when the doctor came.
Through the crack of the door I saw his eyes were open and looking away
blindly when my aunts rolled him onto his side.
When I went in, his jaw was unshaved and crooked,
and I sat in a chair in the corner, my shoe untied.
Even though her breath is thin as tissue paper,
She minds the clocks of her house, pulling the brass
Weights up and the chains down,
Always with the complaint that it wears her out,
As she looks down at the floor.
Tonight, sleeping over, on watch
So she doesn’t trip over her plastic tube,
I hear the cuckoo at 2 and the chimes
At 4. How she must want things to go on —
The brass weight slowly coming back to earth,
The little dumb bird bowing its noisy head,
Turned by the great wheel of being alive.