With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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— for Carol
My uncle’s wife can’t stop moving, so exhausted
in her love, her offerings of cold cuts, salad, tea from a clear
glass pitcher; and for him the sepia vials: antinausea
pills and the ones for seizure that have swollen his face
to a benevolent moon. We see her rest only when
the two of them embrace in the dim hallway, rocking gently,
talking low in each other’s ear. We can’t look away
from this, their gift to us. As August burns, his world slows down,
but hers is spinning. Today another seizure.
He sleeps, his bitten tongue now resting
in his mouth. She calls the doctor and waits — it could be
hours. Their girls watch Nickelodeon, faces slack.
I hate cancer, the younger one says, the way she has learned to do.
They change into flowered bikinis, pull us poolward,
their taut bellies gleaming. Their mother searches the shed for the lost
air pump, inflates the giant whale they love to ride. For a time
the girls float on the whale’s slippery back, but it keeps on sinking —
a hidden leak. So we do what little we can,
toss them, squealing, high above the water again and again,
as if gravity’s hold could be loosened, falling made safe.