blackbirdonline journalFall 2009  Vol. 8  No. 2
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Dark Ages

Once, he had brain fever; I stayed
           at the hospital all night. All night
                      he wanted water, wanted

to pour the glass himself, and though
           his hands unsteadily flapped
                      I kept handing over

the plastic pitcher. I had no answer
           when the night nurse hissed, Why
                      do you keep letting him?

her third time out the door, arms
           loaded with soaked sheets.
                      I have no answer now,

only a sharpened sense
           that neither of us matters
                      to the future, the way

the monk whose breath
           blown through a hollow reed
                      sealed gold leaf to gesso

on a page of the Book of Kells
           has otherwise left no trace.
                      He could not read the words

he copied out, yet labored
           over his share for decades.
                      What if each night of our lives

is one illuminated page? Then
           see the cup, the straw; the glaze
                      of water on the swinging table

arm becomes a lapis lazuli
           Celtic spiral. See the nurse
                      —a lion—who stalks

the margins (she’s tinted
           vermilion) of a psalm you know
                      by heart, the one    in which your cup runs over.  end

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