she dreams of drowning,
a froth of white water closing over her head
when she wakes,
she can feel the wet against her cheeks,
her lungs straining and gasping,
those two, rib-caged, crumpled tissue bags
pumping, winnowing for air
but this is only for a moment
that stretches like an hour.
When the feeling passes
and she clears her nostrils
of water, and shakes the blear
from her blind blue eyes,
when the nurses come
like young madonnas, clean faced
hauling bed-pans twice behind them,
and canisters of breath
painted green as any drowning dream
knows her day has begun.
A day filled with small preoccupations,
a catalog of indignities,
of the enema bag, the catheter,
of the oxygen mask and its slow feed of life
into the wet sticky, emphysemic lungs,
sprouting from skin as dry
and cracked as macadam,
of the blind blue cataracted eyes.
But Lydia has a key, a talisman
thrice calling in her frail voice,
Move me to the window please.
And the nurse, antiseptic as a hypodermic
In her starched whites
lifts the soggy body into place,
the rubber wheeled, velcro strapped
to the open window
where July heat exhales
reflects the metallic sheen of cars
ranked row upon orderly row,
like coffins, or mortician's tables.
Lydia doesn't see these.
For her, the window
opens upon her childhood,
upon Mediterranean hills
above a brilliant sea,
the hot, stone-stung air
of her father's Tuscany garden
beneath silvery olive trees:
pungent fennel, feathery dill,
nodding extravagant heads, and
musk grapes fat and bluing on the vine.
The warm soil throngs
with the lush memories of her youth,
as she fixes her blind gaze
On the window
for just these few hours
and the fading pulse of life.