IT'S WHAT YOU GET FOR DYING ON ME
She lies in bed, near death,
her face pale as a wedding veil.
I used to think of death as Africa,
a country so far, so mysterious,
where I or no one I knew
would ever set foot.
A wedding veil?
I must be recalling
the photograph in the album -
half her face hidden in lace.
a car stops at a red light,
its speakers thumping like jungle drums.
Only the past wears wedding veils now.
Today's bride must be seen to be believed.
And Africa is front and center in the brochure
I pick up from the travel agency.
I can get there in a heartbeat,
not in a heart that beats no more.
Beliefs don't die. They just get more ridiculous.
And comparisons don't wear so well.
Or are lifetimes out of fashion.
Here is someone with the sense
draining out of her,
who cannot speak or remember,
whose arm-tubes feed her
like she's in a womb.
Ah, babies -there was one -just one -
snapshot of her at three months old.
But the rug, the naked belly,
the curl of hair, the burped smile,
won't save her.
She is pale and force-fed -
let's leave it at that.
She is still as if she's posing.
She's so vulnerable
like a body left out for the hyenas.
I cannot get my dying straight.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.