I'm not wearing a coat.
It's late, maybe-April. Snow's been burned
into our dreams, ice lost along the road.
So the coat? Not wearing one.
No cape, slicker, shawl, windbreaker, wrap.
And the hallway is long,
like I'm in Hitchcock's The Birds
and whatever door I open will frame
a slumped human in the corner,
eye pecked into a cave…which is
much beyond the point any of us is willing to go.
The linoleum's all reflection: oil in ponds,
leaves and trees there but blonde and,
as if a hand's stirred it,
diffuse, like the only imagination I've got left
as I hurry through the building that smells
like ink pens and dry cleaners,
ointments, abscesses, tinctures, mercurochrome.
No coat when I finally get
to my dying father's room.
What he says to me bare, utterly uncovered.
I ask myself if any of the last 15 minutes
is a lie, if something else can be pulled
from me or if this cumbersome cloak
straining across both our backs is it.
Nancy Devine teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she lives. She co-directs the Red River Valley Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project. Her poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in online and print journals.