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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