Love / Poetry / Poets

Whisper by Pamela Arlov

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.

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7 thoughts on “Whisper by Pamela Arlov

  1. Hauntingly real; a virtual re-creation of those slow, stark, agonizing moments when your and Nick’s lives were “suspended” in the unknown. From the hyper-awareness of the equipment noises to the desperation of the pleas in the chapel, you have conveyed in “Whisper” the gut-and-soul “wrenching” experienced by loved ones compelled to wait and wonder.

  2. The chapel scene crystallises the frailty of belief systems when needed most and the lengths mankind will go to that this too may pass. So real, so agonising, so beautifully written. Very well executed in structure and voice.

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