False Elegy Beginning with the Moon

A blurred beam floated face down on the river—
crumpled, discarded, daylight’s IOU.
From your darkened hospital room this was the view
that night the doctors gave you waning odds.
The priest gave you last rites, but it wasn’t over,
your body defying medicine and God

to make a limited recovery.
You lived yet have kept little of what you called
your life, a garden still nearby but walled
off now from view. In your new home at the home,
you struggle with life’s basics day-to-day,
needing help to brush your teeth or comb

your hair. Each evening, though, you phone to check
how my day’s gone and, when the mundane has been
exhausted, pause, before you ask again
what happened during the weeks you were “knocked out,”
much as a child might question what life was like
before her birth, as if knowing what it’s about

were a matter of attendance. I recount
those frequent visits to Intensive Care,
confirm that part of you remained aware,
squeezing my hand tightly when I spoke
your name. I’ve chosen not to add how gaunt
your cheeks looked, muscles slack as after a stroke,

or to mention your resemblance to that moon
so often dimmed yet not erased by day.
I wait for you to announce, “It’s late.” I say
“I love you.” Answering, you add, “Good night.”
After, my own gaze in the mirror seems wan—
holding fast to its brief and borrowed light.

Peter Vertacnik

Peter Vertacnik

Peter Vertacnik's poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in 32 Poems, The New Criterion, The Hopkins Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Water~Stone Review, among others. A finalist for the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, he currently attends The University of Florida.
Peter Vertacnik

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Author: Peter Vertacnik

Peter Vertacnik's poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in 32 Poems, The New Criterion, The Hopkins Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Water~Stone Review, among others. A finalist for the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, he currently attends The University of Florida.