Session 2: Relationship, Perspective

OTHERWISE

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

mik, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

 

 

Jane Kenyon, Collected Poems, 2005


THE SHIP POUNDING

Each morning I made my way  

among gangways, elevators,  

and nurses’ pods to Jane’s room  

to interrogate the grave helpers  

who tended her through the night  

while the ship’s massive engines  

kept its propellers turning.

Week after week, I sat by her bed  

with black coffee and the Globe.  

The passengers on this voyage  

wore masks or cannulae

or dangled devices that dripped  

chemicals into their wrists.  

I believed that the ship

traveled to a harbor

of breakfast, work, and love.  

I wrote: "When the infusions  

are infused entirely, bone

marrow restored and lymphoblasts  

remitted, I will take my wife,  

bald as Michael Jordan,

back to our dog and day." Today,  

months later at home, these  

words turned up on my desk  

as I listened in case Jane called  

for help, or spoke in delirium,  

ready to make the agitated

drive to Emergency again

for readmission to the huge

vessel that heaves water month  

after month, without leaving  

port, without moving a knot,  

without arrival or destination,  

its great engines pounding.

 

 

Donald Hall, Without, 1998


SUPPLEMENTAL READING

TWO POETS, ONE ILLNESS, CAROL LEVINE