Wednesday, June 18, 1997

Still Your Birthday, After the Accident

Here it is, still your birthday, half-way through the nightmare, and I am still bathed in your blood, covering my thighs like rusted armor. Would you think it strange if I buried my head in your clothes, while you swam in Demerol, your face shattered like a teacup or a mirror—seven years bad luck for all of us? During that tedious ride to the hospital, I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, I focused on a spot on the ceiling of the ambulance. I tried to reach you, breathing in the light, but you were so deep in pain, consciousness was an effort—small moans and gasps, our only link. In the waiting room Alison sits by me as I slide in and out. Brings me hospital tea, we groan, what we’d do for a real cup of tea—even at a time like this! The small mercies of ritual sustains us. We study catscans, count the cracks in the fragile bone china surrounding your eyes, fragmented handles against the shadowed brain, as if counting facts would avert tragedy. Níl eagla gaothe, have no fear of the high winds…

I would drink the pain from the hollows of your skull if I could. I would raise up that chalice, offer communion, if I thought it could heal the breaks. I would smooth the seismic fractures with my body as sacrifice to the gods of the faultline, travel the coastline of your body home to the land of your birth on this 44th year of your life, if I could turn back the hands of time. For I’d dreamed the fragments of this day into being: I was helpless to avert it. My imagination gone wild seeing you lying there in the road, knowing that if you lay down, death would surely find you. What use is this dreaming? But when the time came, I was a warrior at the ready: I kneeled in front of you, becoming your bolster, so that you might breathe. Kept you conscious so that I might have a reason for living.

My heart beats broken wings against the ribcage, I cannot breathe, my lung has lost inspiration for the taste of air, but I struggle to write for fear I’ll go mad. The dozen roses I bought for your birthday, abandoned on the piano, become a bouquet for the wounded. I remove a single rose, for even numbered flowers are unlucky, they are for the dead. And on this day of your birth, you still breathe. Rusty salutations rise from my lips. Each labored breath brings me closer to the sun. Rose petals bleed on the doorstep. Still you breathe, I sob uncontrollably into your clothes. Coins jingling in your pockets like the bells of reprieve.

18 June, 1997 Novato

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