Lawrence O’Brien- Debris (poem)

Lawrence O’Brien

I wave hello to my good neighbor Jim,
as he walks toward his house, which is exactly like mine,
except that his wife lies dying of cancer upstairs.

November winds are bearing the last dead leaves
into oblivion. Everywhere, there is devastation
from the Halloween snowstorm. Branches snapped

by heavy snow litter the yards in smothered heaps,
like fractured bones under starched sheets. In Jim’s
living room, oxygen tanks lie stacked behind furniture.

My wife has decorated our home in a picturesque, primitive
style. We both prefer the snugness of the seventeenth century.
His floor is cluttered with papers, the table with coffee cups.

He tells me his wife might have to go to the hospital again.
The weight of the tumor has impaired her breathing.
I put my hand on his shoulder; his eyes search for compassion.

Halloween was canceled this year. Ghosts and goblins
did not appear, but the broken trees startle like ogres,
looming from darkness, when I take out the trash.

Tonight, the snow’s plowed up mounds glare like frozen surf.
I awaken to voices outside and colored lights from an ambulance
swirling over the ceiling. I watch from my unlit window,

as they wheel her out, wool-capped, diminutive on the gurney.
At Mass, Isaiah’s words offered no comfort. We are all
shriveled leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.

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