by Matthew Ritger ’10
“I have left behind illusion,” I said to myself.
—-“Henceforth I live in a world of three dimensions —
—-with the aid of my ﬁve senses.”
———–I have since learned there is no such world.
Sunlight falls, ribs
splay. In the hospital
a coma crawls across
the plastic punctured face
we knew. Who knows
the words for steel
that can splice an opal
tender tibia? A coral brain
under ativan seas, the mind
of the boy we love. This
carrera surface, his
carved skin. Luck
rolled bone dice, rolled
the car seven times.
The whole Atlantic sorrow
in sudden incision. Maybe
I am not very human. I wanted
to paint light on the side
of a house. Sunlight
falls on the snow on rooftops
below the hospital window.
Sunlight fails on the city’s spine
broken back by the ocean
onto the ceiling of this room.
Sunlight is falling up
one side of what was
your brother’s human face.
The moon is ripe. Dare you
to drive without headlights
all the way across the bridge
to Mackworth Island: Leap,
and the net becomes blackbirds,
black rags in air, like all
my unwanted prayers —
failing moonlight falling
through the night, into
the belated months you’ve lived
in this hospital, living only
where he lives. Opening
the story of his life in hardcover;
breaking the spine. Each
as if by some new accident,
the nights without sleep come
one on one. Paralysis brothers sleep —
If they can say he’s asleep,
why can’t I pray he dreams?
Dream a colorless beach on the moon,
where we will meet. Dream
we’ve been here all along.
Dream the silent language
brothers know, or hope to know:
See us stone-skipping and
toe-tipping, not kids, but men:
Long lives going on
into the absence of gravity,
float to me laughing. Up here,
a well-skipped stone will go on
infinitely through the absence
of my asking to be forgiven:
A dream I am forgiven.
Someone is writing songs
in octaves humans can’t hear.
Someone else keeps carving
his cornfields into sheet music
for the extra-terra spheres.
Summer after summer
as they peal apart
like bells, someone still says
to someone, I love you
as if the words were a spell.
An accident like this has ripped
all meaning from its sockets:
What was a brother has become
an avocado no angel, no
avocado. In the hospital, everyone
prays, but no one sings. Sometimes rain
plays the roof, a distant tambourine;
sometimes late light cymbals the sea.
I believe this avocado knows me
Even if he wakes up and no longer
knows me. If the damage done
is done beyond my recognition,
it doesn’t have to be so different:
We all go around living
our whole lives, with or without
reason to believe it was real.
Because you braided into a bracelet
the necklaces they ripped from his body —
thin sailing cords and a silver
St. Christopher. Because your legs
were cigarettes, because I was a phantom
in a stranger’s flannel. Because
we both were homeless. Because
there are no good reasons: Because the hospital
was at least in a decent neighborhood,
all through the nights we couldn’t sleep
we could walk, would walk. Because
this winter was the coldest in the city’s
history. Because our brothers were both
in that car. Because I could thread your entire arm
through the eye of my forefinger and thumb,
you were so thin. Because your hands
were half the time too shaky to hold
a joint to your own lips, we’d shotgun.
An excuse to kiss maybe, maybe not —
moments always broken off
because the lungs can only take so much.
In the waiting room, I try to think of
anagrams, palindromes. Time, emit. War
raw. Star is rats. Imagine enigami.
Dead rats emit their light. You fold worlds
into enigmas: paper swans, paper hearts.
I try venery. Collectives. A rabble
of butterflies, a quiver of cobras.
The siege of herons, the battalion
of falcons; a murder of crows. You
have taken to scribbling in entire pages
with black ink. We call it a night.
Walk the longest way home in the moonlight.
I see you crystal real, reach up to touch my face,
and this all begins to feel like something
I have seen before: It’s either déjà vu
or every night of all these weakened
weeks. In the morning: reporter retroper, we
are in the waiting room. I am writing down
the words that came to mind last night:
to feel like something I have seen before.
You are looking down the hallway
where, around the corner, in another room,
a machine is pumping air into your brother.
Like a wine glass against a baseball bat,
every second opinion, every fourth, every blip
on every monitor, each and every rat star raw
war dead moment of these days shatters
through everything I’ve seen before it.
Watching his body botanize,
an oracle or anyone can see
his skin is the color of ash, his face
the color of dust. Someday
hasn’t come yet, but it will.
So why are there no snowdays
from the hospital? Let’s forgive
this place its desperation, and just go
sledding — Henry how did you
lose your coat, Henry, don’t forget
your hat — When he woke up,
thank God or the doctors and we all
became cranberry avocados
since those were the first words
his new mind came to love, why
was it so hard for everyone to smile?
Mother cried, and cried. She used to say
snow is the sawdust from who knows
whose blade. She used to say snow
filling up the woods would heal
the scars of the paths and roads
we made or took, as we must learn
to accept what we were given.
She says nothing now. Even my mind’s
not mine, anymore. I want so badly
to be good for you. So, say
winter on winter the sawdust
comes falling; I say it’s the sky
he’s sawing: When it falls
like a curtain, someday,
when it comes — Until then,
we will give to each fresh snow
two times the kiss of footprints
to fill. And, if luck leaves us
side by side, looking up
at whatever it is up there —
another world, the unworld,
above x behind x beyond:
Let’s call it cranberry avocado
and go sledding in our own dust.
Words, equations — nothing answers
any of my wonders: Henry is awake,
and light is falling. Multiplied
by snow falling. Divided by
dust, times dust, over time.