1918, Iva Describes Her Deathbed
No, it wasn’t like that—you didn’t see
He was lying quietly, mouth shut, one hand on his chest,
The other frozen mid-stir
We were be side one another
When they found us
Be side, what a wonderful word
Be side is the scent I carry
Be side the first man I touched
And his touching me.
Be side him when I woke.
I hear something,
Our baby perhaps or
A kitten crying for a saucer of milk
A kitten crying because she is lost
Because she is forsaken
Because she is left alive.
No, not the cat,
Give me your hand, John Hoggatt
Remember our fishing hole at Byng?
A cold underground stream feeds it,
Gorgeous switch canes at the blue water’s edge
Make sturdy Cherokee baskets
Give me your hand, John
Together we’ll catch a mess of perch,
Cut the canes and load the wagon
We’ll have the folks over for supper
Just a half day’s wagon ride away,
Give me your hand, dearest
Just last fall we helped build the Byng P.O.
Named in honor of Sir Julian Byng,
A British World War I hero.
Your father had a conniption.
You an Irishman, putting an Englishman forward!
Give me your hand, Johnny boy
I call you home now and I call you home tomorrow,
A thousand times as our bodies flake into stars,
Mad or sane, Get up John Hoggatt!
You can’t stay in this death bed
Walk on Iva, says John, softly.
Walk on my girl,
Copyright © 2020 by LeAnne Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.