For a week I sit by your bedside
while nurses come and go, medicine
to clear the alcohol from your blood,
your bones, rising and falling,
your thin finger, now bony, sheathed
at the tip in a steady red beat
to monitor how well you breathe during sleep.
Mostly, you sleep. Hardly touch
any food I try bringing while your wife,
moved south with all of your things,
feigns concern on the phone, while women
you dated, sexted, who knows what
after she left, text you as I hold your hand
until I block them all for my peace,
my family thinking I am such a good friend
to never leave your side while we fight
on and off about your indiscretions
but never about your drinking.
As you sleep your way to sobriety
I cry into tuna salad in the cafeteria downstairs,
a larger scoop given to me each day
by the man behind the counter who wants to know
if I need a punch card, I’ve been there so long.
I try to pray my Catholic prayers into
your Buddhist heart—
we both carry around a lot of beads—
but the hospital chapel sits closed for repairs,
a leaking roof, the worst storm in years
I drive day and night and day through
just to watch you sleep.
Suzanne Burns writes both poetry and prose. This poem is in her full-length collection, Look At All the Colors Hidden Here.