Eleanor Paynter



After pressing her fingers

below his ribs once more, after exhaling


again in his mouth, she slipped

her right arm behind him, lifted


his chest to hers. The days were growing enough

that even at that hour, oak leaves


hung distinct from their branches.

As his torso heavied in new weight,


they rocked slightly on the planks

of the deck, and as lights spun


up the drive, the dog barking, the men

calling out to her; as they strapped him


to the gurney she was thinking, maybe, about his old

yellow Fiat, the dog again, or remembering


the groceries in the car, his voice

earlier, on the phone, how his face


cooled to her neck. What really surfaced in her mind,

no one else can recall. When they were younger,


they two-stepped barefoot between living room chairs.

As they wheeled him through the grass


she spoke softly to him,

or in prayer, then with perfect


precision found her keys, started the car,

followed the taillights to the hospital.


Everything she did looked methodical, but maybe

she wasn't sure she'd left the deck or where


the dog had run off to. Maybe she still

folds her arms and feels the sinking.


It might happen only once, to hold someone so close

there's only one heart beating.


Eleanor Paynter has roots in Texas, Rome, and New York, where she completed an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Recent work has appeared in Washington Square, Weave, Salamander, and Willow Springs. She lives in the Netherlands.



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