The dream took me to a place
where everything was rectangular,
in black-and-white,
rows of compartments like cubbies,
but larger.

The insight pierced me
that I had crossed over
to the other side
beyond life, after death.

I felt completely peaceful and relaxed.
There was no panic, no fear.
Taking stock, I realized
my life’s work was not done.

Deliberately I
put myself back to sleep.
I returned to my dream
and said, ‘I’m not ready.’

The vision dissolved
and I dreamed I woke up
in my own bed, just as it always is,
covered untidily
with the patched quilt,

and next to me, the empty space
strewn with my things
since my husband died twenty-five years ago,
and the phone in the corner
like a companion

calling me back to life
at the brink of ninety-four.
A lucent, that’s what
the spiritualist said I was,
to dream myself from death.


Abby runs on a treadmill every morning.
Her fast, steady pace consumes
Five miles in thirty-five minutes.
Some days, she finds it’s more
Of a struggle than others,
But at the end, covered in sweat,
She always feels wonderful.
This is the gift she gives herself;
The rest of the day is Ben’s.

Alan is less driven.
He has a bad leg and likes to swim
Or gently float in the pool
In a meditative state,
Cultivating patience and resolve.

Alan defers to Abby when it comes to Ben,
And Abby wants to keep Ben at home.
No one else will care for Ben as she will.
Ben doesn’t like to be left alone.
He depends upon her for reassurance.

When Ben was eight months old,
They noticed he was different.
Six months later, the doctors
Gave them little hope:
“He’s severely retarded
Physically and mentally;
He’ll never have a normal life.”

At eighteen Ben fixates on ideas.
“The man at the store,” he says.
“Which man?” asks his parent.
“The man with the tie.”
“You mean the man at the store
who was wearing a tie?”
“Yes. That man. At the store.
With the tie.”
So the conversation goes,
Like running in place.

Alan says, “Sometimes I wonder
What it would be like
To go on vacation
Like a normal family.
Ben can’t handle crowds of people,
Unfamiliar settings, airport security.
Except for short car trips,
We stay home.

“Now Ben goes to school
And day camp in the summer.
We have a wonderful babysitter
In whom we trust.
But soon Ben will be too old
For his school and camp.
There’s a place fifty miles away from us,
A private institution.
It’s expensive, but we could manage.
I asked Abby, ‘Why don’t we try it
A few days at a time, as a respite?’
But there were things about it
She didn’t like, and she said no.
Abby may live forever,
But I know I won’t.”


Shaking with fever,
Air passages clogged,
I kept falling in and out
Of a book I wasn’t enjoying
But felt I had to finish
One way or another.

I used up a box of Kleenex
Staying up all night.
Time fell into a long warp.
I coughed until my ribs ached;
Cold and hot got confused.
In the morning I called the doctor.

Medicine was his art.
Touching my skin with a fingertip,
He told my temperature exactly.
Listening to the echoes
Of my voice through my lungs,
He located the infection.

The drug rapidly melding
Into me made me dizzy.
At last sleep overcame me,
Drenched in sweat
As the fever broke,
Like rain after a drought