Air Drawing

What would be strange
in someone else’s bed, familiar
here as the body’s jolt
at the edge of sleep—body
persistent, solitary, precarious.

I watch his right hand float
in our bedroom’s midnight,
inscribe forms by instinct on the air,
arterial, calligraphic
figures I’m too literal to follow.

I close my book quietly,
leave a woman detective to tough
her own way out of trouble—
local color of Chicago, Sears Tower,
bloodied knuckles, corpses.

I turn to him—
Who else would I turn to?—
but I can only watch
for a few minutes at a time
the mysterious art of his sleep.

If I touch his hand, he won’t know it,
and it’s always comforted me
to feel the vibration,
the singular humming in him,
nocturnal humming….

My mystery falls to the floor,
nothing I’ll think about tomorrow—
I’m listening for the breath
after this breath,
for each small exhalation….

Is this the way it has to be,
one of us always vigilant,
watching over the unconscious
other, the quick elusory
tracings on the night’s space?

That night two years ago
in the hospital, tubes
in his pale right hand,
in his thigh, I asked myself,
Does he love me?

And if he does,
how could he let that steely man
in green scrubs snake his way
nearer to his heart
than I’ve ever gone?


Gail Mazur, “Air Drawing” from Zeppo’s First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005).