Five days before you died, you lay across my lap, barely balanced between content and lethargy— languor of mid-July
and you already half-consigned to what I still somehow believed belonged to a far off future, a reedy conjecture.
How comfortable could you have been— the heat, my knees against your sharp unpadded bone, your skeleton pushing against your skin,
but still you didn’t move, your breath slow, easy. What is contentment but easy breath? And your eyes fallen to gentle creases.
How long could I sit there like that? Five minutes—ten—in the still air feeling the distinct vertebrae rise and fall on my thigh,
my hand on your side, thinning hair, dry skin, each rib fragile as chalk, and the humid exhale of breath redolent of earth?
How long like that—in the heat, your hair in clumps around my hand— how long, five minutes, even ten? Maybe I gave you ten. [End Page 78]
Benjamin S. Grossberg is the author of Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa, 2009), winner of the 2008 Tampa Review Prize and a Lambda Literary Award, and Underwater Lengths in a Single Breath (Ashland Poetry Press, 2007). His third collection, Space Traveler, is forthcoming from the University of Tampa Press. Recent poems can be found in Pleiades, Alaska Quarterly Review, Minnesota Review, the Sun, and Southwest Review.