Twilight Sleep

David Baker

I walked down to the water. Trees were there. Birds were.

Low sky tipped in the sandbar willow. Gray as a slurry—

My love heard sawing. Was it music? Well, she could walk.

It was slow, like Keith at Köln. Then not, for the pain—

Creeks cut through. Whippoorwills. All the calling swallows.

And limestone ledges, boulders big as trucks, as cabins—

The house was there. Ruined and fallen and nowhere

to be seen, now, but a gentle hump in the hillside—

My love smelled river. Roses. Must there be complications.

Surgical stainless, since you asked, and a Tufnol peen—

I walked down to the water. Metaphyseal fit with rotational

fixation is key to survivorship. I wasn’t sure I was awake—

Like hovering ghosts, in their gowns. The twilight sleep.

All the little stars through the leaves it was chilly not cold—

Old bottles, china shards, standing chimney of river rock.

We marked our way by the willow with the scar 10 feet up—

I walked down to the water. Dad picked me up—sixty years by.

Carried me over the river over stones over moon-glister there—

Microscopic sections show eburnation and subchondral sclerosis.

Synovium—if you really wanna know—pseudocyst formation—

And him with his hand, swollen as a ball glove—catfish—

no bigger than a twig stuck in our seine. Spike got me good

What I want to say is, in the shadows, in the twilight,

in the solitary place, the heart lies open to the world—

Two steps. Be careful. She is learning to walk again.

Across the room. Once you take three then you’ve got it

Around the block, the park. The Valley News noted

the gray-haired woman marching along, hair in a bun

Miles a day. Catfish envenomation. Cutaneous oedema.

Severe necrosis. Death has been reported, says the report—

My love walked down to the water, salt urn in her arms.

Doves on the bridge-beams. Taking the daughter’s path—

Well, Doc’s the best. He likes music in his sterile room.

You mean cicatrix? You mean ghost limb? Was it a storm?—

We hack it off and whack the new piece—light titanium—

with a hammer. It snugs the hollow. Papillary w/ mild fibrosis—

We pulled the seine with two willow saplings. Crawdads.

Minnows. We walked down to the water. Put your hand in

We were ankle-deep in the creek, in tennis shoes.

It was warm, like crickets. Slipping on mussels on moss—

Years don’t matter. The heart lies open to the world.

Willow scar six feet up. Trees were there. Birds were—

It’s how you know where you are. My love walked down

to the water, carrying ash. Walked back with her scars—

So we lean together, over the ancient waters. Big sky

like music. All the night, freckled with doves with stars—

Listening to songs to be sung on the other side. Of what?

We will stay a while, by the water, until we are water—

David Baker is the author, most recently, of Whale Fall and Swift: New and Selected Poems. He edits the annual eco-poetry feature “Nature’s Nature” for The Kenyon Review and lives in Granville, Ohio.
Originally published:
September 18, 2023


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