40: coma in cantos

canto 1

my father, who was larger
than life (how many poems
have treated fathers bigger
than mountains–think
new testament?), told me
stories in bed
about coma patients

coma: which is Greek for deep sleep

my mother would say,
did you tell him the one
about the knight?
and my father
would smile and I would smile
and he would say, yes,
but it wasn’t about the knight,
rather the coma patients
he’d seen through
to somewhere
in their typical white
rooms and their families
and their tears
and their limp,
muscleless limbs
and their little bags
of candy they’d munch
on while they listened
to the sustenance machines
and their beeps, hisses,
and lamplight, which reminds
me of heaven, my father said,
which is the way he started
a story about one coma patient

the light reminded me of heaven,
the ventilator light, he said,
even when the overheads
are on, starting one of his stories,
while I listened at my pillow
and watched his face,
like heaven, he said,
though don’t get me started
on that, he said

no, he said, think of ladders
up. Think of a well and a ladder
up and far away, he said,
the sound of a ventilator,
very far away, so that the sound
is really small

all coma patients,
he said, will experience
in some way or impression
the ladder up
and distant sounds,
imagine, he said,
me watching him,
listening to his breathing,
imagining his ladder up
and the way he paused
to call up the image

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