Hammocks or The Rest Defines the Measure


Descending to a dream, the heat

of Orlando rises from the tarmac,

thick and moist, almost enough to drown

the beat of the word that punctuates

each hour, the syncopation to

the last six weeks, the word her friends

find hard to say – and she does too;

they talk around it instead.  Diagnosis

is better.  Have you heard about my

and a relief when they have, no need to lay

it out again.  The odds are good, but still,

but still.  The clink of glass against ice

against glass against tables, the dull roar

of a convention’s worth of conversations,

packed into too small a space; she grows

hoarse trying not to say it all again, trying

mostly to talk about anything else.  They

follow her lead.  The young ones shocked

though she’s old to them, silver-threaded,

in the field longer than they can remember,

since before some of them were born.  Age-mates

are quick to offer ardent reassurance, ask

for details, immerse themselves in this

disaster that may come to them too, sooner

than expected.  The older generation are quiet;

know better than to make any promises.

We’re all pulling for you, is the most

they’ll say; they’ve lost too many friends

to offer more.  It’s all a comfort, in its way;

there is no right, no perfect thing to say;

let’s have another drink is as good as anything,

or how’s the new book coming?  She immerses

herself in words until she’s stuffed to the brim,

smothering the syncopated beat below,

then retreats to swim long, clumsy laps

feeling muscles move the way they’re built for,

(soon, there’ll be no swimming, doctors say)

under a perfect sun which cares nothing for her.

Tired at last, all the voices muted,

she takes to the hammock and stares up,

swallowing the sky above the palms,

noon-bright, then dusky-dark.  The lake,

built by human hands, houses fluting birds,

aggressive raccoons, a sleepy alligator that

thankfully does not dare the bank, a loud

cacophony of nature, sights and sounds

and even smells, rank and lush and living,

always living.  The last hour, wine in hand,

she leans on the wood railing, worn smooth;

how many have come to lay down care,

or try to?  Trochee, the beat, the word beneath

it all.  Dragonfly wings catch the light;

a green lizard pauses, puffs out its throat,

red polka dots against a white field,

bright as measles, as sunlight, as love.