Walt McDonald

A neighbor's light blinks out, condo dark
on the mountain at midnight. On the deck,
my wife and I count stars and rock.
She holds the cell phone in her lap, and sips.
What can be done tonight for our grandson,

nurses do. Two thousand miles away, he sleeps
with teddy bears and tubes--we hope he sleeps.
We flew back tonight after days away,
taking turns in the hall, watching doctors
and orderlies until we knew them all,

the charts and diagrams by which they plied
and multiplied our prayers and those of others
holding coffee in the waiting room and hall.
Our daughter-in-law keeps watch, tonight,
almost our son's time to arrive at the ward

to send her home, though she won't sleep,
unless exhaustion counts. Our steers don't know
we're back, fed as they were for days
by neighbors, their own grandchildren safe,
we hope, all drivers sober or at home.

Walt McDonald was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and served as Texas Poet Laureate for 2001. Some of his recent books are All Occasions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), Blessings the Body Gave, and The Flying Dutchman (Ohio State, 1998, 1986), Counting Survivors (Pittsburgh, 1995), Night Landings (Harper & Row, 1989), and After the Noise of Saigon (Massachusetts, 1988). His poems have been in journals including APR, The Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, and Poetry.


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