Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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As Cheer Passed by a Death Bed
—Alyce Jane Olson

Down freeway, morning sunshine shows
silvering traffic that seems to serpent in place,
then the farthest treetops brighten.
Then that also goes away along with whatever

mood any lightness of feeling was on its way to,
and a divine instant could not have been
unless it had been stopped, so some treetops
intervened, and happiness manifested.

The open-curtained glare of freeway noise
is personal for you, and it might as well be,
and daylight must already have wanted,
however obliviously, to bring back your features.

Because while it rests on your hands and face
the sunlight is here to stay and a freshening wind
will not blow away, and in my ignorance
I see you up close as never before,

I see such delicacy in what your dying
has done to you, I can’t look long,
your eyes closed down on life, their face never
looks away, truly if merely shameless,

there is dignity in how only your face shows,
they’ve tucked you in, whoever it is
who does that must have meant well.
The face itself is the final nakedness.

It is some book open so wide and going back
so far it can’t be covered up, as are
your bruises from again and again
trying to fall higher and higher, and toppling.

The cheering daylight never quite gets past dawn.
In this memory of your face that to this day
is too free of motive for me to ascribe any blame to you,
that light confronts me with the you you can’t see.

It is ever this way with the light of recall upon you.
Upon your grimacing gravity is a loose-fitting belief:
the days themselves rip up and tear away, but their light
doesn’t have to, or have to come clean.

If I saw anything in your face, more typically
a scowl, it was dying to depart us all.
Anything else was about small change.
Our lives change to the life we are of,

freeway island trees, to a little sunlight,
the most unwilling commuters, to another rush hour.
Always life gets through, and that’s
what there is to this cheer that quiets me.  

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