You're Still Here But I've Already Lost You



Snow weighs down my lashes
as the street behind me
fades.
I climb the stairway
to your room
and there you lie,
adrift
in a bed of soft clouds
and oblivion,
your pale arm
purple
where a nurse has stuck
the intravenous line
close to where they’ve stuck
the line
so many times before.
Tubes vanish up
your nostrils
as if to prove
the very air
is in our power
and heals.
Monitors pulse
with numbers
and the mountains
of a child’s hand.
They write a fiction
that elevates
survival
above consequence.
I bite my lip
and turn away
to glare at
the clock’s traitor face:
Both hands wind inescapably
toward solitude
and loneliness.

You were born
into a world
of onion domes
and scarcity,
where light bled out
of every waking sky.
Hope slipped in
when air beyond
the womb first filled
your gleaming lungs
with life.
They later
nearly burst
the day
when, overjoyed,
you dashed
home from
the village
school, barreled
in unheralded
to share
the teacher’s praise,
and found your parents
quarrelling so
heatedly you
shrank back
like a wary dog
into the kinder shadows.
Deflated
like a dream at dawn,
you ached
for the caress of
one pure lily’s
radiance.

Resilience carried you
beyond the horizon,
and next your lungs
survived the rancid air
of steerage,
then swelled
with newborn aspirations
and exhaled the words
of an unfamiliar
morning sky.
The same lungs
soon propelled
into space
a laugh of gravel
and heart,
which swayed me
from the shaded lamp
into your brighter orbit,
where, with all
due gravity,
I, the lily
you’d been waiting for,
floated down in white
onto your
softly heaving chest
and made of it
my hourless haven,
the one place I,
so aware
that time eludes us,
knew this world
would never end.

Your venerable lungs,
no longer gleaming,
now are caving in,
the doctors say,
thanks to a germ
with an aroma sweet as grapes
and an impenetrable membrane,
a pearlescent bacillus
that thrives on oxygen
but does not need it
to survive,
a killer
whose name means
copper-rust false unit,
so help me God.


Lying helpless,
evanescing
like a wraith of fog
in sunlight,
blue eyes clouded,
and the shape
of words
no longer something
lips and tongue can form,
you unwind the hours
of your life,
feebly raising
one bent finger
to stroke
the skin of shadows
you alone perceive.
I stand beside you
and purse my lips
and hold
my breath
and shut out nurses,
shut out doctors,
shut out lying monitors,
and ache for nothing
but to climb
inside and be
the shadow
you caress,
more alive
to you
than our life
will ever again
let me be.

About this poem

My maternal grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Russian Empire more than 100 years ago, inspired this poem. My grandfather died in 1994 of pneumonia after infection by a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. My grandmother lived another 10 years but was never the same.

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Written on December 21, 2022

Submitted by DougHaberman on December 21, 2022

Modified on April 26, 2023

2:41 min read
50

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABXCXDXXEXFGHGHIXXXJKXXLMXEXFNXCXOBXP XQXBXDRXXSTKXCXXXUXVJXXWXXXYVXXXAN XESJUZM1 KDSZOFXBX2 XBBI3 IX4 EDJPQX S5 RCXXXPE4 6 KX2 X PGX3 VX1 5 XLT5 KXYXXXXXXLL5 XBWX6 XTXB
Closest metre Iambic dimeter
Characters 2,560
Words 537
Stanzas 5
Stanza Lengths 37, 34, 32, 15, 33

Doug Haberman

Retired high school humanities teacher who loves to write song lyrics. Now trying my hand at poetry writing. more…

All Doug Haberman poems | Doug Haberman Books

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    "You're Still Here But I've Already Lost You" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 21 Jun 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/148360/you're-still-here-but-i've-already-lost-you>.

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