Vinamaratha Rao, PhD Candidate (G1-P3)
Beyond this door lies a forest
deep in the quiet riot of autumn.
The silence disrupted by the crunching of leaves
underfoot a team of interlopers, of which I trail behind.
In a clearing beyond the shadows of the thicket,
we approach two trees towering as one.
Two trunks bowed like backs to wrap their branches in an embrace.
In their place, Two women appear.
One woman sits on the bed, a thin green gown
draped over skin cracked with withering fissures.
A fading bruise rings around the plastic and tubes
that have now become a part of her.
She leans to the side with a wincing smile,
as her hair falls like golden leaves onto the pillow
and the sheets
and the lap of the woman who sits by her side.
The woman beside her sits with her back straight,
feet planted firm,
and eyes lidded in age-long defiance.
As if approaching the base of a magnificent oak, I look up
and feel little in the presence of her years.
A guessing game begins,
making one set of lips spread into a thin smile,
and one set of eyes glint sharp, a prodding barb suppressed.
Never, a lover.
Stammered apologies and surface blushes follow, but all I can see is the tangle of their fingers.
Two wedding bands pressed so close that my breath holds in the gap,
waiting for the sunshine shining through the bare branches above and dappling their joined hands
to melt the gold
Our visit concludes, yet I linger to see secret smiles shared
between two women with their backs bent,
shielding each other from the world.
The door swings shut behind,
and the phone in the pocket of my white coat buzzes with love
from the girl
I have yet to learn how to fearlessly adore.