Four Poems by Anne Whitehouse

After the Accident

Frederick’s as careless of his body
as if he were one of the fish
he catches in the Hampton Bays.
He’s fractured his bones a dozen times;
each mending has left him
more fragile than before.

He fell off his truck last spring
and broke his right arm in three places.
After two operations, it’s still not right.

The beard he’s grown can’t hide
the look of pain in his eyes,
the fear that he can’t keep up.
How can a loner like him
do anything else?

“I have the best of both worlds—
half the time at sea
away from it all,
the other half selling my catch
at markets like this.
It’s a life of adventure
and freedom.”

He winces, his hand
bent like a claw
scooping up a piece of fish
to weigh it for a customer.

Rose’s Dream

The dream took me to a place
where everything was rectangular,
in black-and-white,
rows of compartments like cubbies,
but larger.

The insight pierced me
that I had crossed over
to the other side
beyond life, after death.

I felt completely peaceful and relaxed.
There was no panic, no fear.
Taking stock, I realized
my life’s work was not done.

Deliberately I
put myself back to sleep.
I returned to my dream
and said, ‘I’m not ready.’

The vision dissolved
and I dreamed I woke up
in my own bed, just as it always is,
covered untidily
with the patched quilt,

and next to me, the empty space
strewn with my things
since my husband died twenty-five years ago,
and the phone in the corner
like a companion

calling me back to life
at the brink of ninety-four.
A lucent, that’s what
the spiritualist said I was,
to dream myself from death.

Blessing XXXIV

“In one dream I was trapped
in a burning building
and couldn’t get out.
Everyone had fled
and I was left behind.
In another dream
I was captured by aliens
and stranded in outer space.

“My dreams were attempts
to understand what
was happening to me.
All that first month
I was in a coma
I had only one good dream
that I remember.
There was a brass spigot
and water was pouring out of it—
cold, crisp, clean water.
I drank and drank.
It was so delicious
I wanted to keep on drinking.

“Then came a dream
where I was trapped in a car
and a man peered in
and said, ‘I’m Clifford Wynne.
I used to work with your father.
Do you remember me?’

“‘Sure, Mr. Wynne,’ I said,
‘I’m stuck in this car
and if you could give me
a hand and help me out,
I’d appreciate it.’
‘I’ll see about that,’ he said.
‘I’ll get some help.’

“It turned out Clifford Wynne really
was there with me, in the ICU.
The next thing I remember
is my brother. He said,
‘Hi, you’re back,’ and I said,
‘Where have I been?’
He said, ‘You’ve been
unconscious for a month.’”

“I have no recollection
of the accident.
I could hardly believe it,
because I’ve been riding
motorcycles for thirty years,
but that’s apparently
what happened:
the kid came right out
in front of me.
He said he didn’t see me.
An SUV was behind me.
I’m lucky to be alive.
I’ll never be what I was;
I’m someone different now.”

Blessing XXXIX

Shaking with fever,
Air passages clogged,
I kept falling in and out
Of a book I wasn’t enjoying
But felt I had to finish
One way or another.

I used up a box of Kleenex
Staying up all night.
Time fell into a long warp.
I coughed until my ribs ached;
Cold and hot got confused.
In the morning I called the doctor.

Medicine was his art.
Touching my skin with a fingertip,
He told my temperature exactly.
Listening to the echoes
Of my voice through my lungs,
He located the infection.

The drug rapidly melding
Into me made me dizzy.
At last sleep overcame me,
Drenched in sweat
As the fever broke,
Like rain after a drought.

See Anne’s bio and a Q&A on the Featured Artist Page.

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