Even those of us who don’t believe
or don’t know what to believe in
know enough to frame it as request.
Please we whisper in our minds,
sitting beside the hospital bed
where your mother, unconscious
since they opened her heart,
is fighting to come back.
Please we plead with the emptiness
because what else is there
to say into the night sky
on the long drive from the hospital
back up the mountain to your parents’ house.
To the stars burning in the trees,
please, and to the black snake of the road,
and to the heat the next morning already rising
off the deck where your aunts
have gathered to smoke.
Please to the drive back down the mountain,
to the landmarks I memorize
to gauge the distance: the Sloughhouse fruit stand
whose corn was so sweet when we cooked it
the other night it needed no butter or salt.
Please to the small river and then the large river
we cross before the left turn at Felix’s Spy Shop
with its tools of surveillance
whose customers must so want to be safe
they stalk. Please to the Burger Chief
where the next turn comes,
its faded awning a kind of flag to get ready.
And now into the parking lot and out of the car,
a wall of heat as we cross and then the cold air
of the hospital and up to the ICU on the fourth floor
where everything we know of life –
how much we want it, how much
it makes us suffer –
is there on your mother’s face,
mouth open, eyes wandering and then shut.
Last night your brother heard her
tell the nurse save me,
low but clear.
We want everything to be okay,
but we also want our hearts to be broken
and in that brokenness to be lifted
out of the smallness of our lives.
And so please to the sweetness of grief
that makes us finally want to know our parents
and let them know us.
Please to whomever can be appealed to
for help, please to the strangeness of beauty,
to the poison oleander that lines the highway
and to the vineyards that grow on hillsides
in their sloped grace. To the single lane roads
and to the train of cars behind us,
all of them anxious as well to arrive.
Please to the past we cannot let go of
with its lovers like a ballroom of ghosts.
Please to the future we walk into blindfolded.
Please to the body’s invisible work
of repair, to the heart and the liver,
to the kidneys and the brain
the night the doctors tell us your mother
may not find her way back
from whatever dark place she is lost to.
Later she will say those days were dreams
of being tied in ropes.
And yes, please to the way sorrow throws us
into each other, my life into yours
and into your family’s,
and back into my own,
the hard way we begin to belong.

Look at anything long enough to love it.