Cedars-Sinai and The Palace

For Alan Kaplan

She’s sitting in the balcony of the Palace,
an old downtown movie house
that was elegant, once.
There’s a shimmy hum of an encore in the air
coming from the guitar chords.
The audience is breathing together
on this Sunday in the desert heat of Los Angeles.

She’s standing among the beeping, clicking machines.
blue plastic gloves
her hair pulled back
and face thin.
The nurses have told her that hearing 
is the last sense to go. 
He is lying on the ICU bed.
The machines moving his lungs
open and closed
pumping and pushing him
with a false evenness. 
The room is still.
His eyes are closed.

The lights change from red to green.

The singer croons into the dark theatre.
She can’t see our faces 
but she knows that we are there.
The sun is setting outside.
We can all feel it.
The singer tells of the lost life
of the garish things we never touched
of the yeses we silenced
of the fold
of the surrender.

She breaths the sterilized air
gathering herself up
through choked voice and almost tears.
She tells him of Lucretius, of the idea 
that death is just a transfer of energies
that he’ll never really end, 
just become a part of everything else.
His eyes moved beneath his closed lids,
lips parted slightly.
She reads him the last lines of Inferno — 
of Dante coming up from the bowels of hell
and breathing the air again
and seeing the stars again.

The singer hums
there is no death my dear.
All of us are thinking
Don’t leave just yet…
Everybody wants you to stay.