279. Holding Place

Moment’s respite: Riah’s
Breath was coming through.

Louise sat, panting,
Gathering her wits, the house
Creaking with wind. Dust
Wafted by.
A clock was somewhere,
Nowhere to be seen.

Riah’s face: unmoving,
And unmoved. Louise
Passed her finger slowly
Full across the thin white
Cheek, its softness
Like a language that she
Could not speak: she traced
The lips–
She paused there, briefly,
As if miming “shush.”
Then a breath
Brushed by.
She bowed her head.

The door squealed,
Battered–Louise raised
The quilt by its worn corner.
Before the sightless eyes
She shook it, as if
To arouse a ghost.

No attention.
She grasped Riah’s face
And tried to peer inside–
But like a leaf or
Tree, it was–
Itself, that only
And clear through:
Nothing hid.

Almost as far away
As she could be, yet Riah
Lay beneath her touch.
Louise could cup
The square curve of the jaw
Against her palm. 

Louise thought:
A person. Separate
From me.
Nothing stared back.
Handfuls of clear water.
Eyes without
An answer.

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