for Allan Eller
If you’re lucky, at some point
ordinary life becomes itself:
something to inhabit, rather than
something to pass through. It’s unserious
to express so banal an idea in these
postmodern times but it’s all that he
could think of in the year it took for him
to die, that friend whose stay in ICU
turned out so much worse than had my own.
Early on I’d tried to encourage him
with that: how I’d lain in this very bed
and gotten my life back whole, a
futile hope, as it turned out, for him,
whose mind was clear to the end but
who remained locked into a body frozen
from the shoulders down. All that
apparatus of the respiratory system:
the weakened bellows of the lungs,
the compromised diaphragm, insufficient
in the end. Nothing about that contest
was ironic. Which reminds me
I should have the courage to say
cherish to describe the cove
of warmth, the hive our two bodies make
beneath the blankets, and the cooler
nimbus of the bedroom air around that hive.
The house’s outer walls groan in the clench
of midnight cold while the glass
integument of windows blooms
with feathered frost, crystalline bargello
through which the silver winter moonlight
I will let these hosannas out:
this baptismal of pearlescent light,
the eucharist of yet another
night nested together:
it is a grace, praise be,
it is our blessing to behold.
Christine Gelineau is the author of Crave (NYQ Books, 2016). Earlier books include Appetite for the Divine (2010) and Remorseless Loyalty (2006), each of which won publication prizes from Ashland Poetry Press. Other honors include a Pushcart Prize. Gelineau is Associate Director of Creative Writing at Binghamton University and she teaches in the Wilkes University Low-Res MFA Program. She lives on a farm in upstate New York.
This poem first appeared in Paterson Literary Review No.38 and it is included in Crave.