In the House of the Dying

                                                         —for Carol

My uncle’s wife can’t stop moving, so exhausted
is her love, her offerings of tea from a clear glass pitcher,

cold cuts, salad, and for him, the sepia vials: anti-nausea
pills and the ones for seizure that have swollen his face

to a benevolent moon.  We only see her rest when
the two of them embrace in the dim hallway, rocking gently,

talking low in each other’s ear.  We can’t look away
from this, their gift to us.  As August burns, his world slows down

and hers is spinning.  Today, another seizure.
He sleeps, his bitten tongue now resting

in his mouth.  She calls the doctor and waits— it could be
hours.  The girls watch Nickelodeon, faces slack.

I hate cancer, the younger one says the way she has learned to do.
They change into flowered bikinis, pull us poolward,

taut bellies gleaming.  Their mother searches the shed for the lost
air pump, inflates the giant whale they love to ride.  For a time

the girls float on the whale’s slippery back, but it keeps on sinking—
a hidden leak.  So we do what little we can,

toss them, squealing, high above the water again and again
as if gravity’s hold could be loosened, falling made safe.


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