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Requiem (In Observation)

by Mainon A Schwartz

Though unresponsive to anything in this world,
he has one arm outstretched, a hand trembling.
I am wracked with the wonder of what he must see
against the ceiling, to be so moved.

With one finger pointed to the sky, his hand
is filled with strange grace it never learned
from the stern efficiency of farmwork.
It flutters like a butterfly, caught
at the end of an awkward arm.
I am awestruck by the quickness of its rhythm,
by the frantic undertone of its ballet.

His gaze is fixed, and his expression so stoic
that even here he maintains his dignity--
a coronet on his brow would not seem
amiss. Yet he cannot make his eyes meet mine.
Perhaps he can hear me, but I suspect
words are unimportant now that he is
beyond me. His skin has never looked
so black

              as against the blinding angelic whites
of his eyes, and the sheets, and his thin cotton gown--
maybe our vision is being prepared for the sight
of him as an angel, or as a ghost--

but even the rich black skin is marred,
in these final days, by evidence of change.
Fine white threads mark the visible dryness,
the maps of tortuous washes and deserts:
cracked oracle-bone patterns that I cannot
interpret in my ignorance. I do not know

how long it takes for a man to die of thirst,
but when his hand drops
                                     to his side
                                     and falls still,
I stop trying to understand.


Author's Note: In memory of David.

Posted on 04/17/2005
Copyright © 2021 Mainon A Schwartz

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Laura Doom on 04/18/05 at 11:01 PM

Palpably unsettling - a time for suspension of belief. This has the feel of a childhood recollection related in the present.
Credibly haunting.

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 02/21/14 at 06:34 PM

Really a gripping account of a dying man. One could almost see this taken from a painting, it seems the hand is suspended as your thoughts explore him and his condition.

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