Journal of Writing & Environment

—for Joyce Gellhorn


If there is one, the body holds to thirst and bone. Three days on her cabin deck, filtered shade of spruce, a fox sleeping under the porch. Her grandchildren read poems aloud, bring ice chips, linger quietly near her gnarled feet. A hummingbird – I swear – keeps diving at her flowered dress to drink. Joyce falling, time eddies in her sleep, traces of sea receding in dark. When she returns in a tiny gasp or an electric flutter through her shrunken shoulders, she searches for words as her eyes open, and floods each one – I – didn’t – know – I – was – going – Here – as if I could taste the vast field of Here in a muscled breath, as if we had been there together. I – love – you – as if she could see me, as if the pooling sky belonged in our eyes. My mother, her best friend, pats her shins and stares at the aspen trees, speaks gently to the small animal curled in her chest. And soon it is no longer Joyce who is generous, but her death, tiny sips of delicate breath like a fish needing water, all of us whirled in the soaring quiet of her leaving.