“Pentecost” by Sheri Benning

(For Rosalie)

A crack in the dam of late-winter sky,
light syrups the field, deer-hide blonde,
last year’s crop, legumes, rich tilth,
grainy snow. Soon,

the furred petals of crocus.
Soon, the meadowlark’s ostinato,
cattail gauze, blown poplar seed,
sun in a woman’s silk blouse.

You want to walk after a season of sleep.
And I remember you, doctor on either side,
sitting up for the first time. Shaved head,
you couldn’t focus your eyes,

the robin embryo I found in our caraganas—
hatched, raw, fallen from the nest. But now
we are walking, thinking about our dead.
They nudge us softly,

like how our shepherds nose our thighs
when they want to be fed. The dogs run
in the ditch beside us, chasing scent,
gophers, moles, jack rabbits.

You don’t have to worry—you said
in the night-tent, your hospital room,
voice scarred by newly removed tubes.

Eyes closed, you held my hand.
Even if you died, you would’ve never left—
they’re with me. Like in a dream? I asked. No. Here.

What keeps us separate from death, thin as a curtain
between beds. To your left, an old woman purred.
Jaw wide, steady motor of sleep. Kitty corner,

a woman who spoke in tongues. At night, tired
of being locked in a language of one, she’d weep.
Once, your nurse found you out of your bed.

You climbed your guardrail,
sat beside the crying woman, stroked her back.
How many nights did you drift to me?

Hold me to your chest? Half asleep, milk,
or its memory, in your nightshirt.
We reach the empty yard, poplar shelterbelt,

branches, capillaries, the sky’s pulsing heart.
Steaming fields, lick of flames. We know we escaped
nothing. But my god. The glory

of reprieve. Listen,
you call over a rising wind—
lifting from stubble, wave upon wave,

snow geese.

 

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