Kathleen Cain

From three floors up,
outside the ICU window,

my brother watches two swallows
arc and soar as they chase after
some pale thing:

too large for a moth. Flotsam
from a shopping bag, as it turns
out, rising on August wind, always
out of the south. One bird lets go

of the plastic, no bigger than a feather,
to tease the second, which swoops,
tuxedo-tail atwist,
to snatch the scrap and climb;
swift elegance of tawny rose and indigo.
Across the room

our father gasps for air. The white crane’s
neck of the ventilator infuses his chest
with air ten times a minute—he must do
the rest—although he can barely catch
a wing beat of breath.

His hands flutter in baby-bird struggle.
He lifts his head, intent on rising,
then sinks back. Earthbound, in spite
of the room, the world: so full of air.