Doris Ferleger

One Snowflake-Covered Hospital Gown Tied in Front

another over it, tied in back, he’s doing his heel-toe,
heel-toe calf stretches, smiling as I approach. Midlife
man reduced to less than diapers, holds his own
IV pole, sac of healing fluids helps him float
forward in time. Reminds me we are all three-quarters water.

Heel-toe twenty times more. I tell the stranger he looks good.
Something to say to any man recovering from one surgery
or other. Midlife crisis, he says, so I joined a kind of chain gang
of kidney donors. Kidney went to a guy in Georgia.
Georgia guy’s wife gave hers to a good match in Dallas.

In a domino chain, 75 million tons of ice break free
from a Greenland glacier on the hospital lounge TV.
Ice waves crash into the sea. No words can describe
the astounding solid clouds of frozenness floating back up
after hurtling into the icy waters. The whole globe

waiting no more for anyone to save it. The kidney donor
says when his husband died, he still wanted friends
to take pleasure in sparrows singing, but he himself
felt a need to do something that could kill him more
surely than swimming in polar seas.

But he needed to make sure his death was intended
for the good. Save the life of a man with fine reasons
to live. Passover seemed a good time to get out of his Egypt.
Free himself from worry about staying alive with no one
to love. Survivor guilt, he says. Says he knows it’s possible

his kidney won’t take in the guy receiving it. But worth a try.
He looks happy, as if made whole by being compromised
in body, not just in heart—I imagine he once danced
like a royal-blue bird, red head, a courting dance
to woo his beloved with flutter, hop, and whoosh.

On the hospital TV, thousands of caribou cross deep snow-
Corridors, making hard tracks, and come to rest on a frozen lake.
Not an eye closes. Packs of wolves follow fast, probe
for weakness. In the deeper snow, progress is harder.
Hidden by trees, wolves get closer. In Manhattan,

on the 15th floor of Weill Cornell Hospital, the donor
will walk the hard corridors to keep from getting clots.
In Georgia, the guy who got the kidney will call to say,
Today I get to hold my first grandchild. Every day
I get to wake up.


Doris Ferleger is a winner of the New Letters Poetry Songs of Eretz Prize, Montgomery County Poet Laureate Prize, Robert Fraser Poetry Prize, and the AROHO Creative Non-Fiction Prize, among others. She is the author of three full volumes of poetry: Big Silences in a Year of Rain (finalist for the Alice James Books/Beatrice Hawley Award), As the Moon Has Breath, and Leavened, as well as a chapbook entitled When You Become Snow.


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