Hammocks or, The Rest…

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 conventions 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 shes 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.
Were all pulling for you, is the most
theyll say; theyve lost too many friends
to offer more. Its all a comfort, in its way;
there is no right, no perfect thing to say;
lets have another drink is as good as anything,
or hows the new book coming? She immerses
herself in words until shes stuffed to the brim,
smothering the rigid beat below,
then retreats to swim long, clumsy laps
feeling muscles move the way theyre built for,
(soon, therell 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.


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