In the Care Center

The glass sphere glittered with fish:

sun-glare gold, turquoise, rose,
pewter, pale ash, indigo.

(Down the hall my father sat with his sister as
the yellow of her skin leaked into her eyes.)

The fish spun inside this watery sphere set into the wall,
and between their aurora, I could glimpse
the room beyond, filled with figures stretched
like phantoms in the glass.

(Most days, he would ask her simple questions
and help her answer letter by letter. He blurred
through the alphabet, watching for her blink
of confirmation. “I?” Two blinks. “Yes, I.”)

I stared through the sphere as they ached, their strange
forms edging forward on walkers, or waxing catatonic
before a screen whose lights fractured
in the ripples of my window to their world.

(Today, he simply held her hand as breathing shallowed.
His tearful blinks worked furiously, as if
his eyes could speak the unspeakable
language of loss. Spelling out grief, letter by letter.
“I? Yes, I … I.”)

Gazing through the gaps in the prismatic weave of fish,
watching the warped figures who moved like pale shadows
on the other side of the sphere, did I ever wonder
if the figures were watching back?

What must they have thought of me?
A specter looming in the glass
fogging a circle of vanishing breath,
blue eyes gleaming above
the skeletal mask.