Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Soul Hook

by Al Ortolani

Pop lies in Room 217; tomorrow
drapes like a curtain between us.
He sleeps with both hands crossed
against his chest. I try not
to believe in omens, but voices
whisper through the hospital, central
air shifting the ceiling tiles,
an escaping soul, spirit rapping.
Once, a hook was fastened to
a dying man's throat, a thin metal finger
curved above the chin, over the mouth,
to catch the soul's
invisible escape, a sudden gasp
of breath, a flattening of lungs.
Nothing is familiar anymore
except the beep and click of monitors.
Pop stirs momentarily, opens
his mouth as if to speak. I slip
a shard of ice onto his tongue,
touch Chapstick to his lips.

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