The Yellow Transparents
(In memory of Pepper Constable)
If the tests come out wrong, if the cells
begin to fail in their quiet weaving;
if the body that so lightly carries
this life betrays me — some night
when the pines talk to one another,
when no moon would tell my secret, snow
would fill my steps, I could go to that hill
so far beyond my neighbor’s it has no name.
Walking and waiting for numbness, I’d feel
the blade of air I’d chosen for my chest.
And if winter were too far away, the water
I watched today could take me — swift
churn of Otter Creek Falls, fanning out
smooth, moving from shore. Entering
such depth, a body would be part
of a motion, alive in its last time.
The doctor sensed the first tear
in his own tissue. The hand
with scythe-neat nails began to belong
to someone rebellious, his feet
were marble boats headed different ways,
his tongue turned against the thoughts
that tried to guide it. His country lost
its history — the childhood house
with its wings and boxwood borders,
the woman he noticed as she turned away.
He dreamed of dusty arenas, every exit
barred, a roar coming from the bull chute.
Doctor, he knew there’d be no reversal;
no way to cut or soothe. The ocean was open
all the way to the skyline; generous and deep.
How did he choose the time — after a day
of stumbling, or one so bright it tempted him
to stay? One night of no moon, he listened
to his wife breathing deep and even,
slipped back the broad cuff of sheet. Standing
he let his night clothes fall like snakeskin,
rustling down. He stepped in the last future
he could make — cold salt marking his ankles,
his calves as he waded in. Thighs, balls,
belly, chest. The tide began to love him
then, its pulse pressing his nipples,
answering his heart. He kept on,
letting in the water that would be his new air,
opening to the larger world, the failed body
lost to the final healing.