Arts & Letters
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 is a poet. Her most recent book is The Hazards.
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