In the womb of the shade at the edge
of the walk at the riverside's park,
as I tremble and swing in the sigh
of the weight of a shameful frailness,
I watch the orioles, their feathers
orange, dirty, dusted brown, below
my knees. No one has washed them but rain,
they gather, sing and flit through the holes
in the wall; they hollow out the air;
I can barely believe this - so simple.
Sweat drips down the sides of my face,
salt-staining the printed page where frailness
guides Alfred to a safe-home - the floor - where the repairs
needed and not got, stack up under shame.
And the halting voice of his closest son subsides,
haunts him in the hospital. The changes.
The long failure-filled hallways with familiar locked doors.
No songbirds sing here.
Alfred, old and dying man, will I be like you one day?
Will this edged mind collapse on me,
leave me locked away from all?
Farther than the far plains, will I bury
myself in prairie grass? I need to know,
not let it pass unknown.
Will someone carry me down the stair
when I am old? When my bones are broken
and my mind withheld, when her name is
all I remember and all I want to be told,
will anyone be there?
Will her wind still
caress my hair? When I am naked and skin-spare,
when I am wet and drowning, in the tub and alone,
will she still love me when I am there, my heart
shot-through with cancer and age,
when I am nowhere.
When the blood quit turning in his heart
I left my book, my perch at the park.
I was lighter without his troubles,
without the image of Alfred's eyes.
Without the no-love that howled
in the meat of the book, I imagined feeling
again at the end, where his wife smiled, smiled and shook,
ready to "make some changes,"
or better yet, go somewhere.
Exiting, the birds around me
smothered my ears with wings
with their easy wire-walking feet:
I wished for all they'd never have to know.