Fern at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital
I didn’t know it was live
until a child began picking
leaves from the fronds,
letting them drop to the floor
like those long hospital minutes.
No one stopped her, bent as we were
to our tight economy of form paperwork,
hoping if we fill it right, insurance will
come through this time.
I’d been so often I could recite
the questions asked in neat typed rows.
The TV, above us like the eye of God,
kept up its own bright conversation.
The fern, just at child height,
was finally picked bare, a frond
spindling out as if to mark
for us all, the writing on the wall.
With Kit, Age 7, Outside the Hospital
– After William Stafford
We would walk out those glass doors
sighing open so easy at last,
the way the windows never moved
in the higher levels of the ICU,
and spring was just for looking at,
raging as it was with fair blue skies
and dots of daffodils between streets.
She would grip my hand
as I led her to our car,
pocketed in the dingy maze
of parking garage. Would she
ask every question, as I buckled
her in, of home, family, the life
she was beginning again,
like an Easter Sunday, like an Easter
lily, with her pale eager face?
I would grip the steering wheel
and drive as fast as I dared,
my child unaware of the death
that pursued her, and I pretending
it wasn’t with us even there.