by Victoria Korth
Wednesday, he insists on coming to appointments like monthly clockwork even when he can’t breathe—idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis—oxygen tank clinking by his side, air pressing into him with a snap.Sometimes he’s blue around the lips, like last month when I called his internist, sent him to the hospital. But today I wonder if I’ve misconstruedmy motivations, chosen work certain to fail.At home Steve, the arborist, has piled magnolia limbs on lungwort— pulmonaria— its purple-green crushed, leeching into spring snow.I wonder at my shock of pleasure: the tree’s absence, no more leaveslike wet leather on bluestone or blossoms sweet as decay. I breathe into the space where it had been. And Nick’s story suddenly bright:his love for a young male ward once crushed beneath his other stories, until nowas he approaches death. Failure, as foregone as the adult world was to my childhood, witness to helplessness; I chose to study it,not out of curiosity or honest urge to help, but because it was known.Do I create or recreate? Nick speaks and, bless his heart, appears to listen, leans forward as if holding in his palm the tree’s last ruddy seed pod, agreeable to doves, velvet orb, all his. He offers it to me.