(Alistair MacRobert/Unsplash)



As if during la peste you were
my nervous guest, and me your host:

I followed practices I knew:
lemon tea, horehounds, sleep,

and beseeched your liquid airiness
to stay faithful and true until

we sang in chorus once again.
I’d keep you in good shape, woo you

into your glassy registers.
Our friends will join us soon, or not.

I sang to myself, by myself,
in kitchen, garden, bed and car,

and begged the household gods to preserve
this being, this you I have in me.

Don’t dare go silent or away.
I’ll open windows and exhale

the resonance before we sing
one line, solo, just the two of us.



The door hinge squeaks.
It’s a child’s complaint.
The door hinge creaks.
It’s old people talking.
We’re here around your bed.
We listen for your breath.
Does it come? Does it go?
You squeeze, somehow, a smile,
your teeth get bigger,
the dope tames your face,
until you stir and ask
Who? Who’s that there?
We’re unaware how
we imitate your breath,
its tempo, the held-ness,
as if we all could stay
and stay and make with you
a music of small breaths,
as if our consort could keep you
with us, this instant then
one more, and the next when
next has no meaning,
but now there comes again
from the trees outside a cry.

W. S. Di Piero’s recent books are a volume of poems, The Complaints, and Fat: New and Uncollected Prose.

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Published in the September 2021 issue: View Contents
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