Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

A Kosmos

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

A Kosmos

Article excerpt

You lay in your last sleep, not-sleep

head tilted stiffly to the right on the pillow

at a sharper angle than when you bent over poems,

year after year, and we plucked at each other's lines,

as if now you considered some even starker question.

Your IV tubes were gone. Your arms were bruised.

A blue cloth cap enfolded your pale, bald head.

It was too late to give you the lavender shawl I'd imagined

more for my sake than for yours.

Your mouth was suddenly tender, the mouth of a girl.

You had come very far, to come here.

Never one not to look at things squarely,

now you looked inward. Who knows what you saw.

And when, weeks later, we gathered

again at the house to say those formal farewells,

I went up to your study looking for Leaves of Grass

and found, instead, your orderly desk, unused,

your manuscripts neatly stacked, the framed

photographs of your girls, and, like a private message

from Whitman, who saw things whole, the small

dried body of a mouse. …

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