By Susan Chiavelli
A man crosses the street carrying a pink bed pillow under his arm—
the too-long pillowcase trails in a breeze made of his rushing.
I watch from my car stopped at the crosswalk as he aims for the hospital
entrance—his stride purposeful, determined, his face etched with worry.
I’m overwhelmed with love for this stranger, for the simple gift of comfort
he brings from an empty bed at home. I should drive on, but sit wondering
if the pillow is for his wife, daughter, or maybe his mother. I think of my
own empty bed—think of all the different ways we can die.
The man steps from the crosswalk and passes beneath the shade of the monster
fig tree—a monument to constancy, this tree always dropping fruit, wasting
its sweetness on the unforgiving sidewalk. For a moment he is lost in the shadows,
a mere outline of a man, but I know him and how the wasted fruit feels underfoot—
the regret of it. I follow him until the familiar doors swallow him whole—the doors
I pass through daily leading to the hushed world of waterfalls, past the river of life
flowing through the courtyard where I gather calmness to take to my husband’s
bedside, sit in vigilance armed with false cheer, as I rearrange his pillows from home.
Susan Chiavelli is the recipient of the Chattahoochee Review’s Lamar York Nonfiction Prize for “Death, Another Country,” also named a notable essay by Best American Essays. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Paradise, Elsewhere, The Los Angeles Review, Miramar, San Pedro River Review, The Packinghouse Review, and elsewhere. Also by this poet: "Tandem"