Brief Visitation

By Judy Michaels


He says he births people into death,

but he seems gentle, this hospital chaplain,

and he doesn't move in close or insist

on praying with me, instead he notices:

the writing pad on my knees, too many books

for one weekend's infusion. I'm still

on the drips that are meant to defuse,

confuse, generally fuck up, the chemo's side effects,

and I like how he listens, we talk words,

how we love them, especially in the early morning.


I hold up Rita Dove, he writes her down

and says he looks for words to touch

people into love, says he cries easily, sings, too,

but I don't want him midwifing me

away from pain into new life

with God. I will him to stay right where he is, half-way

into the room, strong, centered, telling me

how the Bible is a well whose Word

(I prefer words, like dirt, milk, greed) finds


and fills him every day. And I am comforted,

touched from my hospital distance, touched to my

wired, drugged, space-invaded core. My breathing

slows to match his and I remember how my

mother's desperate, rasping breaths and my kiss,

the last warm breath she knew, made some kind

of horrible sense. "But not me," my pain is saying,

loud and rude, "not yet, I'm on the rise,

I've got more to say, I'm touched into love."

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