William F Dougherty (West Hartford, CT)
The unction cools my brow; the candle shines
and braids a line of sacramental brede;
the priest half-chants the text, and makes the signs,
jogging my mind with the redemptive creed
I learned to lisp in church. A night-shift nurse
shows up with rosary beads and borrowed shawl:
I squeeze my morphine pump; the pain is worse.
A gurney clatters down the empty hall.
I wonder what my blur of meaning meant
to warrant such precautionary flush;
I wonder why the candle's Sunday scent
expands and cloys the sterile room. A hush
folds up all sound; the candle snuffs its flame:
a wisp absconds with my stowaway name.
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