I work nights, and he was awake.
When he saw me, he said, “I’m not going to
make it.” Well when they say that
they know. People can tell. You don’t
argue with an expert. I wet the cloth
and bathed his face, but it didn’t do him
good. So I took his hands in my two
and we held on. No one
was alone in that motion. The way water
is a part of itself, we were the going
until his hands went slack in mine.
Still I held on, some final acknowledgment
beginning its climb out of the body,
his skin resilient still, that shine
across a taut thing—then I saw it sag
and go flat. His body had a clearness
about it then, the clean weightlessness
of a crucible completely empty,
in which you hear the air ticking
against the glaze. Then I heard another
sound, like when you’re a kid, holding
a shell to your ear, hearing
the ocean. I held on, and then I understood:
it was the sound of my own blood.
Reprinted with permission of Marilyn Krysl.