A Shipwrecked Midnight

 Ashleigh Frayne is a Family Medicine (R1) at the University of British Columbia.”

 

 


The pavement darkens as the chill of the night settles

Stretched across the lap of the day, a shadow cat

Moving swiftly down the street, between pools of light

Cast by warm windows, freeing the damp of evening

To reach long fingers down my spine, the sigh of today.

I rub my eyes, crusted with the dread of tomorrow.

When we were small, we’d wait outside the hospital.

Through the translucent pages of our paperbacks,

You, in your white coat and snaky black stethoscope

Would emerge from the door, a hissing, yawning mouth

That swallowed up strange bent people, shackled to poles.

The long red word above the doors pulsed like a tongue.

 

Had I known that it would break me like it broke you,

Crushing out the blood and marrow of compassion,

Leaving me a hollow man, propped against a desk

In some emergency department, haunted by

Incessant beeps of the dying, their moans and groans

Echoed within the empty space betwixt my ribs.

 

Would I have walked into the belly of the whale?

If you had said, “beware my son, those jaws that bite!”

Those claws catch and drag out all remnants of feeling,

Flinging them like entrails across the sick-stained floor.

This is the cost of passage to a lost kingdom.

Sucked dry, on my knees, I exhale a whispered cry.

 

I feel like I am walking down death’s other path,

Where souls lie discarded and broken, small stones tied

To their tails with bits of string, tethering them down.

When the rain comes, I watch them flutter feebly

As the waters rise.  I feel I am going mad

Without your hand to anchor me onto the rocks.

 

Do you remember going swimming in the storm?

The sea rose up like Cetus, spitting foam for fangs,

Trying to take you from me, howling jealously,

Ripping my hand from yours, the waves spat me back out,

A silly child twisting in the spray of the shallows.

The ocean claimed you with the suck of deep desire.

 

So maybe this is my swan song, cast out across

A stretch made unnavigable by a thick mist

Of dissipating memories, floating like a lily:

Its white petals sloped like the shoulders of a man,

Who sided with his beloved brother against fate,

Drifting westward, where your soul may reach out to mine.

 

The witching hour is over and night breaks with dawn,

I sit duped by the darkness, my head in my hands,

Another call endured like a shipwrecked midnight,

The morning navigates my face unfavourably,

Pausing over my furrowed brow and darkened eye,

Disinterested, it abandons me to my thoughts,

Face pressed to the glass, they leap out and lift, then fall.

 

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