Kobayashi Issa’s haiku in the epigraph was one of the inspirations for my poem; in particular, the last line, which emphasizes our desire to cling to things as though they will last forever, despite life’s ephemerality. My poem loosely borrows from a crown of sonnets in that the last line of one stanza becomes the first line of the next, albeit in a different iteration. This form mimics the condition of a person’s life being in limbo, where there is no resolution and a repetitiveness present in the waiting and the tasks of the medical staff. However, meaning also accumulates through repetition and the last line of the haiku can be interpreted in another way: it suggests that there is more to be discovered, that there is some part of us that is able to respond to the beautiful and the transient in the most trying of times; that—beyond all logic—we find reasons to hope. 

“The world of dew
is a world of dew—
and yet—and yet”
—Kobayashi Issa


What filters
through the eyelids’
limpid grey
beyond the wet
pink rims & tape?
Does the light
scatter & sprinkle,
opalescent as diatoms,
each time the nurses
turn you gently
as a newborn?


Gently, the nurses
turn you, born anew
your eyes inhale
everything in this
blurred hive
of white coats
& blue tunics.
Later, moonlight
dresses the walls,
but for you,
every hour
strikes midnight.


Midnight strikes
every hour,
compresses time
into the push
& pull of pain
& opiate—all
that ribbons
through this body
that is no longer
your own.


No longer.
Your body diverts
any impulse
to recall before
& instead focuses
on breathing
now and here.
You whirl in & out
this godless shell
of glass & mask,
as the storm
settles in
your body.


What storms
through your body
& ripples through
each ear: susurrus
of gauze & sheet,
soft soles on tile,
crescendo of nurses’
voices, the digits’
electronic squall,
the ventilator
clocking each tiny
breath. The body
winters here,
for now.


Winters here
in its coat
of thinning skin,
veins sketched
in a glacier’s jasmine
for the rosary
of stitches above
your left lung.
The body’s sentence
stretched over
the ventilator’s
metre. One month:
all possible futures
in flux.


The influx of
impossible futures.
One month to witness
the fierce unmaking
of your anatomy.
The lungs shudder
with pure intent,
hauling oxygen
into the concaved
chest. How it
unspools & pools
& exits. We keep vigil
even as you hover
nearer hail Mary
than hallelujah.


Nearer hail Mary,
held captive in
this mad rupture,
saddled with
a weight of tubes.
We have bled out
our usefulness
& so we wait,
spectators of
sickness’ detritus.
How did I
not know
our bodies are
complex elegies
in motion.


Our bodies complex:
elegies in motion,
each detail immense.
So much less
of the body,
so much
more to love,
as your mind floats
in a froth
of unmemory.


In a froth
of unmemory
the mind
as the shadow
of words faltering
on your tongue.
The incision
in your throat
overflows with
the unsayable—
all your language
in limbo.


In limbo—all
our language.
I hypothesize
how many
you can outrun.
onto a screen,
I sense how
your body weighs
each setback
& the viscera
sticks like resin.


Like resin,
the viscera.
But I will not
sermon over
your body yet.
Let breath
become flint,
become spark.
Let it gather
in waves.

I cannot fable
the ending
I want.

And yet.
How the wind sirens
through the trees.

And yet. How
the cut roses

Cara Waterfall, Ottawa-born and Costa Rica-based, has poetry featured in Best Canadian Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, The Night Heron Barks and more. She won 1st and 2nd place in PULPLiterature’s The Magpie Award for Poetry, 2nd place in Frontier Poetry’s Award for New Poets, Room’s 2018 Short Forms and 2020 Poetry Contests, and was shortlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize. She is also a two-time finalist for Radar Poetry’s The Coniston Prize. She has a diploma in Poetry & Lyric Discourse from The Writer’s Studio at SFU and is currently a reader for Frontier Poetry., @carawaterfall.




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