White on Green

By George Korolog

The belief was stuffed into the room with her, a thinly veiled brittle cake, stiff and fragile, a remnant that had been left to fend for it-self, isolated and exposed, left for dead in a desolate field to weather and brown, little by little, for eighty eight years.  We steadied ourselves in the room where every breath stretched, with great difficulty, inhaling ourselves forward into the approaching morning light. We gathered in circles to pray, to play the excruciating concluding notes, the furthest point of a prolonged and tired echo that flowed into the crowded air surrounding her bed, the space swelling with the smell of bitter porridge dripping in sour wine.  As a distraction, we told ourselves the old stories and applied the touch, the one that would pass through her furrowed wrinkles and plunge unadulterated, headlong into the blood, the knowing tap reserved for the dying, and only the dying.

We stroked her, and each other, with the downward stare, a constant bruising, our eyes blinking uncomfortably to the ticking, to the waning sounds of valves, the echo of air moving in and out, pulsing into white that could no longer be understood as a color, but as feeling, a premonition of how it might feel to see her lying quietly inside a mahogany box lined with clean fat linens. Beyond the end of the bed, there was a large rectangular window, cut deeply into thewall where the remaining gusts of pure white drifted across the emerald stories that lay beyond the window, moonstone and amethyst, moss opal tales that seemed out of place, not of this world, but still coloring the edge of things that we had come to believe.

The priest arrived to pray. We bent our heads down with him, our eyes still looking up at the monitor, rocking ourselves to the words and the sounds, to the slowing beeps, waiting for sprigs of grass to grow out of the cold linoleum to soften the floor, waiting for the moment to say, “yes, you’ve lived a good life,” the closing lie that we had saved for the time when there was nothing more to say.  We turned off the switch and counted two hundred breaths, the number of remaining heartbeats that we did not know were left in her body. We counted patiently to the end.

I asked to be alone with her.  The room emptied and it seemed as if the entire world had bent from the knees and  solemnly backed out, as if to leave a lord, unaccompanied and alone, to sentence a splintered soul who could never know what she had done.  I sat next to her bed with my head leaning stiff on the hard winter skin that stretched across her hands, hoping to find a place to touch.  I could not bring myself to look at her face, and so I stared out the window and it was there that I saw her, sitting on the grass, in delicate sea of absolution, in the air that had passed through the window, beneath the shade of the oak trees, in the summer dress that I had once seen her wear in an old photo, smiling in a way that I had never seen, framed perfectly within the window, with air and colors that now danced, the white on green that had now, finally, kissed her face.

 

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George Korolog is a San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer. His work has been published internationally. His first book of poetry, “Collapsing Outside the Box,” was published by Aldrich Press in November 2012. His second book of poems, “Raw String” was published in October, 2013 by Finishing Line Press.  He is working on his third book of poetry, “The Little Truth.”


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