In the pre-op room, my wife was given
a scalene block for a brief procedure.
She had shoulder surgery three months back,

and now again they’ll anesthetize her
to break up scars that have kept her in pain.
She’ll be comatose, however briefly.

I remembered right off how one’s love can seldom
appear so precious as she does on a gurney.
I feel what I felt on watching her labor,

giving birth, for instance; but I won’t be on hand
for this episode. I sit in the lobby,
alone but for a fellow old man

in a black cowboy hat, who’s waiting like me
for a wife to come to. He plunges his fingers
into her purse, and digs around

inside– in search of what, I wonder?
I can’t decode his half-audible mumbles
or his face’s expression. On the trip here from home

we hit black ice on a busy road
in this busy small town. My pickup spun
on the slick in what passes for rush hour here.

The fact we weren’t hurt defies all reason.
Like grace. The man keeps probing, and I
keep wondering why. His look’s still deadpan.

I know very well what it is to divert
one’s thoughts from hurtful or frightening matters,
to seek what can lift us out of the world

when it threatens to tear itself into tatters.
How on earth can love torture us so?
Its pain seems deepened by the length of its years.

An ambulance siren winds down outside.
I’ve been reading to keep myself busy but now
I look up to find my cowpoke in tears.