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.