That unexpected knocking
was a wheeze of terror in the breath of early morning.
Startled from my rapid eye movement, I groped
for a measure of comprehension and dashed
to the door. My elderly neighbor,
breathless and pale, holding to the ledge of panic
with weak fingernails, fearing for his wife.
Then a snap-like sequence ending in a plea,
and a rapid return unto his stricken love.
I stood on the icy porch and listened
as the siren slashed the predawn quiet
like the plaintive wail of a mass extinction.
In the glare of lights that made me squint,
I waved an arm overhead
and directly paramedics were hurrying down stairs
through the door. A mustache of perspiration
quivered above Tom’s lip; he searched for keys,
stirring like a question mark in blue slippers
and half-buttoned flannel.
It was not Helen’s way for thirty years
to listen to her health nor have the doctors
look into her eyes. Perhaps it was the throw-rug
of pride under which she swept improvidence; I do not know.
But a diamond will not sparkle when enshrouded
in a tomb. Another species, a gray bewildered cat,
remained beneath the kitchen table, motionless.
Early on a Saturday, fine crystal fell to jagged rock,
and I looked down to witness the consequence of neglect.
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