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Bedside

William Olsen
Because it turns out the world really is a hospital,
Because we had to have had before us a giant pair of scissors
Before four bold wings can have newly ascended,
Before new doors can revolve, before new elevators
Rise and fall empty and full, new numbers light,
New floors with new doors both open and closed
Because there are nurses to sail in and out of need,
Because need walks the doctors somewhere or another,
Because of elaborately adaptable need the bed . . . 
The bed could be wheeled right into traffic and snow
Because so far there is only inside and outside
And more of both than even creation could have concocted,
Because the bed that bore us all and our desires
And our exhaustions has become a contraption,
Because the bed that keeps us coming back to it,
The bed that once sailed to the ends of the earth—
Now tied to trees dripping blood and sugar and sleep,
Anchored where overhead a TV persists, such news
As snows poor reception—because the reliable bed
Is something even a family understands, the family
Is how the world goes—a fool's dream of awareness—
Grouped around this steel altar at its least and lowered
Because the bed is a helpless, blameless invention,
All the same to it if it is made or not, empty or not,
Same fatiguing last probabilities, because there are
As many ways to die as people to find these ways
Because there surely are, because the tried is ever new,
Who can't lose their way anew among so many alive?
Because who hasn't made their own bed, because 
Who hasn't slept who hasn't been led by night there,
My mother's hands playing the fabric of the spread
As if it were a piano, tongue-tied, isolate fingers,
She's ghost-smoking, working on an invisible crochet
"Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate . . .  I want to die"—
"Wake up!" Machado said the Gospels reduced to
But not now, not until you have what you want—
Any belief in love itself is what I'd have you want—
Look me in the eye with that sort of love that looks
Through me as if grief were so much tissue paper,
With a love that doesn't stop with me or you, that
Doesn't stop when there's no more world to fear
Because there is no need to wheel the bed outside,
Because a hospital melts like a snowflake, because
The walls and windows and even the bed liquify, 
Even the things she's seen that aren't there vanish
Because how much energy there is in emptiness,
Take everything away, there's still something there.

From Avenue of Vanishing by William Olsen. Copyright © 2007 by William Olsen. Published 2007 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. Used with permission.

From Avenue of Vanishing by William Olsen. Copyright © 2007 by William Olsen. Published 2007 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. Used with permission.

William Olsen