Friday, January 22, 2016

I Thought You Knew (for Ralph C.)

Hear I lay…on bleached, barren sheets.
Not the high thread-count Egyptian ones 
Recalled from a Las Vegas compotation,
But these from the hospital laundry, 
Worn with service, hot-cleaned of bloodstains
And bodily remnants.

Did the prior tenant think about these sheets
And find that this is what death smells like 
Before answering the door?

No hunger, no hunger at all; only great thirst subsumes me. 
I gaze at the rate-flow regulator in my IV, 
Having no idea what enters this body, 
Some nourishment from others,
A clear liquid
Like my friend Nikolai 100 
Always dependable
Never disguised of its purpose or adorned
With lavish markings
Delivered with a simple black-and-white label
And safe housed for well designed delivery
In its rounded, glass flask, flat-shaped 
And always ready to slip beneath my seat 
As the wheels roll on.

Oh, the miles we traveled….

        * * * *
An odd ending, it seems.
Where was I when life happened? 
When Love came my way?
Where was I when that curious danger that landed me here
Made visitation?
I don’t remember choosing.

And where are those soft, warm lights 
Gleaming with amber hues
Through bottles casting spirits of cordiality
Where words profound and pithy make their way, 
To and fro, across the barman's sacred chantry?

With those blissful and aimless country miles,
Just Nikolai and me, there was
No need for company, 
No more weighty words,
No more camaraderie.

Thank you doctor, 
Thank you for your care.
My liver you say is distended and diseased, 
Enzymes soaring, sky-high.
And just how, you ask, did I come
To such an abject place 
While having insight to 
The certainty of death?

How did I, knowing my sequel; 
How did I…
Do it

I gaze back at him, with my eyewear fixed in place
And look into his caring and plaintive eyes, 
Those searching and honest eyes
And I say, “I am sorry, I thought you knew?”

 Kevin Swanwick

April 2016