The air mattress of my husband’s hospital bed
creaks and crepitates. The ventilator breathes for him
with pistonlike regularity, and now and again
the thready bleat of an alarm gives warning.
A low hum fills the silences, the clockwork universe
unwinding in a slow spiral, the thrum of unnumbered hearts
drumming toward stillness.
In the nondenominational chapel,
a cross rests on a blue altar cloth
emblazoned with a Star of David.
No matter; I will pray
to anyone: the trees, my ancestors, Zeus and Athena;
to any celestial eye that watches me;
to any distant ear that hears my prayer.
Stars wink out unnoticed
and galaxies drift apart in an ever-unraveling universe.
Still, I half-expect a mournful whisper
Across the vastness:
Sorry, it all falls apart eventually.
Back in the hospital room, I lean toward the gray man in the bed
and rest my head on his familiar, rounded shoulder.
His brain, swollen and flooded with blood,
is a universe apart, drifting away like a spiral galaxy,
hazy with stardust. He is pale and still,
but still my love, still alive.
My whisper sends its sound and warmth into his ear,
faint hopeful tendrils filter through the drift of brain and blood
to wrap what scattered scraps of consciousness remain
and gather him back to me
with the force of love’s gravity.