“O Silver Bowed Archer”

I’m in the ICU waiting room again. My mother-in-law is scheduled for an ultrasound. She’s had x-rays. She needs help sitting up. She has no appetite. She breathes from one lung in great gaping heaves.

It’s getting dark outside. Rainy. There’s a group of people in the waiting room who know someone in a coma.  They’re eating white powdered cookies from a round tray.  A girl keeps changing seats. She pulls one chair in front of another and puts her feet up and tries to lean against the armrest.  She gets up again and walks away.  She has braided pigtails.  Small feet.  A sweater that reads “Love Shoes.”

I’m trying not to think too much.  I’m listening to “Washed By the Water” by Needtobreathe. I’m typing absently on the computer.  But it’s no good. The music, the people, the slowly dimming windows . . . and now I can’t get the last lines of a Zbigniew Herbert poem out of my head.

…not for the stone wreath of Troy do we implore You O Master not for a plume of fame white women and gold but restore if you can to blemished faces goodness and put simplicity into our hands just as you once put iron

send down white clouds Apollo white clouds white clouds


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