August 2021

Arts & Letters

Time remaining

By Sarah Holland-Batt

New poetry from the award-winning writer and critic

Like rolled beads of mercury

silver bubbles fly up silently

in the mineral water by my father’s bed.


A bag of Hartmann’s solution

hangs in the air like a sling

of trapped rain.


A chartreuse teardrop

blinks on the infusion pump’s screen.

The gauge reads Time Remaining.


In this void of time

in which my father remains—

I want to say, is remaining


present continuous—he returns to me.

Hello sweetheart, he says blurrily.

I’m just trying to get the damned thing working.


And as if I can see what he’s seeing

I ask, Is it plugged in?

He says, I’m beginning to wonder


and he’s gone again, eyes swivelling

through the morphine, rolling

in the mulberry velvet of it


and I can see it’s true: my father is beginning

to wonder, he is at the verge

of something he is only starting


to comprehend the shape of

as if he’s standing at the delta

of a huge muddy river mouth


where the mackerel-backed sky and water

mirror each other’s enormities

and the eye cannot find the horizon


between them—a demarcation known only

to those who wade in, full immersion.

It is right that at the end of his life


my father’s final feeling is wonder—

not awe, not joy, but wonder—

cousin of astonishment and doubt,


which in the Old English

also means to magnify—

the way his time remaining


dilates and shrinks, is made

both infinitesimally small and infinite:

a day, an hour, a minute.

Sarah Holland-Batt

Sarah Holland-Batt is a poet. Her most recent book is The Hazards.

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