Good poetry’s capacity to convey emotional intensity is exemplified in Todd Davis’s piece on the love of a wife for her husband in his last days.
The Last Time My Mother Lay Down with My Father
How did he touch my mother’s body
once he knew he was dying? Woods white
with Juneberry and the question of how
to kiss the perishing world, where to place
his arms and accept the gentle washing
of the flesh. With her breast in hand
of joy the final bit of fragrance
in the passing hour, the overwhelming
sweetness of multiflora rose, and the press
of her skin against his?
The body’s cartography is what we’re given:
flesh sloughing into lines and folds, the contours
of its map-making. When at last he died,
summer’s heat banking against the windows,
she’d been singing to him, her face near to his,
and because none of us wanted it to end,
we helped her climb into bed next to him
where she lifted his hand to her chest
and closed her eyes.
First published in Winterkill (Michigan State University Press, 2016).
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