The word flits past the surgeon’s lips,
riding an ordinary exhalation of breath.
And, as with the displacement of air
stirred by the flutter of a butterfly’s wings,
what is set in motion may change a world forever.
Yet, my emotions sputter to engage and my mind toggles
between odds of survival and the fact that this doctor,
whom I never met, is older and less comely
than I imagined her to be. Perhaps I’m not good
at this sort of thing; perhaps I’ve gone numb,
force-marched through the medical maze; or
perhaps I’m just soul-withering tired.
I fidget through her post-op slumber,
eyes darting like humming birds
from clock to TV to door to clock.
And when, at last, she is given back to me,
I anchor at her bedside where I will ride
the ebbings and flowings of the afternoon,
feigning a velvet calm; seeding the air
with positives; and tracing slowly, again
and again, the contours of the face
that first entranced me like the North Star
some forty-odd years ago.
Later that evening, driving home alone,
only the rhythms of a rutted road
securing me to my task, I survey with
gnawing disbelief the chronology
of the last few months and am left
with nothing but a sigh to cushion
the rugged ride ahead.
© 2009 Dennis Ference
First appeared in Ars Medica.