Night in the Shape of a Mirror
Hour by Hour, The Familiar
I followed her into fog-shrouded hills.
She walked so quickly I doubted she was real,
but then I saw the stoop, the slight hitch
in her step as she hesitated in front of a gate
to hurry me forward, her hair streaming
behind her as she moved ahead, bright river
in the night. I called for her to slow down,
but I might have told the river to reverse.
She hurried on. All this time I held her
by the hand as she sat in the wheelchair
beside me. We often traveled like this, with her
leading me where I feared to go, neither of us
letting on we were anywhere other.
We could not rely on routes, signposts.
I had no reason to believe her an able guide,
needing as much help as she did, to be fed
or turned in bed. Yet day after day I followed her.
Sometimes we walked the edge of a cliff. I clung
to her coat, which bunched up in my fingers
but then slipped off like silk. By then we were
back in the room, inside the familiar.
It took us three years but one night I looked up
at our return and saw her smile. The smile the blessed
are said to give at the moment of death
though her hand was warm, I could hear air
fill her lungs. I understood I had become like air
to her, a needed thing, hour by hour the familiar
tearing itself away until she was no more.