Container of Souls

Hospital said slowly is a soft hiss spitting, air whispered, thin & forced
from a filled container. We are falling into the darkened parking lot, waiting

room—from a long distance, it seems—although it is just across town,
over the empty train tracks & quiet river bridge. Time drips differently here—

thick & solitary. We all need somewhere to go & some of us come here:
teenage girl with deep red scratches on her neck who reminds me of Jess.

Slight man with braids—draped in white cotton—leg tapping, a metronome.
He could be the boy I taught in kindergarten who did not want to grow up.

My mother scrunches her face up sour as June apples saying something
is not right, a blue cloud seeping into her brain. Bows her head as in prayer

lacing her veiny hands. The river of my mother’s life flows past us
slumped in these waiting room chairs. An east wind is coming up,

she says. Cold, it will be cold when we get back outside. How fluorescent
our faces, unreal in this vinyl ether world. Here, we say, we have come here

looking for a path. Give us back what we have lost—in the sanitary chapel
of the emergency room. Frost settles over the soccer field across the highway.

I am aware that all the young leave, but then they must find their way. Here,
my mother tells her story, and when I repeat it, she says she does not know

if what I say comes from the heart. She needs the doctor from the ninth floor
to sit with her. Confirm her sadness like a priest confirms sin. Stillness

settling over the white building as the patients move toward their cars, or beds.
The river calling across the night asphalt, rooks & owls folding into trees.