at first no one spoke. no one looked up.
hope arrived in the form of this
one or that one: nurse, doctor, another cancer patient
looking past a head scarf to a smile. i pictured
birds: scrub jay, towhee, mockingbird;
finch, sparrow, dove—
who are you? i wondered, looking
into each one’s face. bird,
or man? woman, or wings?
the world’s glass melted into waiting.
half-awake, i listened. heard one voice fill the clinic
with sickness, spit. another moaned
hunger, hunger. another
two, a pair cooing, filled
this no-heaven with plans for hope’s
return. in a day one can make
all kinds of plans, i thought,
imagining a child trembling, leaning back, taking
chemo into her veins. little twigs. they looked
like the feet of birds, or imprints
from a mother or father who,
clinging to the girl’s thin wrist
dug in and gripped, and in
the only animal way possible,