Rituals of Comfort
By Michael Schmeltzer

I. Monday Night

Tomorrow morning determines my belief
in mercy or misery.
Meanwhile, I gamble
all the trust Jordan places in me.
I throw a pair of dice

at cancer. I bet
one cube of flesh
sliced from her lover’s arm.

My wife busies herself
with boiling water for tea,
fetching blankets and pillows,
the ordinary
rituals of comfort.

We coil around two conversations:
one a rattlesnake, the other a licorice wheel.
After a few hours of this,
Jordan wanders into sleep, trailing tissues and hair
on our worn couch.

I’m convinced the wind
prophesies the future so I leave
the window open,
let it creep between the screen and me,
watch it shift Jordan’s hair
without rousing her, a secret tenderness.

II. Tuesday Morning

With the sun barely peeking
into our home, I hear my wife
quietly singing
from the living room.

She strokes Jordan’s hair,
tucks it behind her ears.
My wife obliges her in a lullaby.
They both close their eyes.

I close my eyes and think
of an article
about group suicides,
how three students
charcoal briquettes in an empty apartment.

All three wore
ski goggles
to keep the smoke from their eyes.