My patient is in her bed, asleep. Her grey hair, not completely white, is greasy and untended. She is dying, just not right this minute. I unfold the little chair I am carrying and sit next to her. I am not a long lost family member who has traveled miles to see her. I am just a volunteer. And so there is no reason to wake her. I sit and knit a cabled scarf. Knit one, purl two. The scarf is in blocks of color, the wool is forty years old, hand dyed by a friend who was once a weaver. She found an old box of yarn and gave it to me.
The patient in bed, when lucid, has said she likes poetry What is poetry? I figure it should rhyme. I open the heavy paperback of Penguin Women poets. Elinor Wylie seems like a safe bed. Emily Dickinson has too much about death. Does anyone read Elinor Wylie anymore? I doubt it. It is light and feminine and doesn’t really go anywhere, I think I shouldn’t insult it, but I tend to. But it reads well aloud. Then I read a Marianne Moore-—better to my ears but maybe not better if you are an old lady dying.
She breaths. In. Out. I fold up my chair, pack my knitting. In a way, I don’t want to go. I want to stay forever, until she dies. But I go.
Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
There’s something in this richness that I hate.
I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There’s something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.
I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom’s breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.
From “Wild Peaches”