The word sounds
like angels.

The years of my father
take me to a new vocabulary.
Procardia. Lasicks.
I fit these foreign words
inside my chest
and pace the beat of their syllables
while his breast and leg are shaved.

One November hour.
Two lives.
This is the diagram of the heart
and the hand-holding that comes of it.

In the brick courtyard,
brown oak-leaves fear the wind.
In a clean room,
the incisions are grooved in chevron flight.
Dyes crowd through occluded passages
that close on themselves,
mapping the body’s geography.
Intimate tension. I wander long hallways like ventricles
looking for a word to translate
into health,
the specter of hope,
trying to read the doctor’s face,
visualizing a gesture of prognosis that smiles
ahead of spoken reports
and terminology.

Footsteps echo like uneasy murmurs.
I look for the shadowed room of my father
where his familiar clothes
are hanging in wait for his form
to fill their animate life again,
the room to where
they will wheel the procedure back
through the hospital wing
after the aorta, the chambers,
the deadly or blessed angiogram.

The word
sounds like angels.

Nicholas Samaras

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 10, on page 45
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