New York

Iris A. Law

With the hospital machines unplugged,

the room felt startlingly quiet. I kept watching

the monitor, waiting for the flatline. 

How strange, I thought, to be

watching death plot its course

across a small black screen, the body

surprisingly stoic, systemic even in failure. 

Systole.  Diastole. The organs

shuttering themselves in orderly

fashion.  One by one by one.


Forty years ago, he kept company

with the corpses of flowers, took

night shifts in the back of a florist shop

where cold cases buzzed around him

and the musk of wet foliage clouded

his brain. Manhattan was having

a heat wave, and all night, he’d sweat

and stare at the chilled arrangements,

the plants’ stems stented to take up water,

stiff in their cage of refrigerated glass.


When he dozed, he imagined

reaching through those transparent doors,

plunging his whole arm in as if through a sheet

of water.  He dreamt of Iowa rivers then.

Of their rapids and forested banks,

the wet lick of cool undergrowth,

plant matter kissing his arms as he walked:

leather-tongued tangles of rose briars,

damp-stippled fingers of ferns.


Systole. Diastole.  The nights breathed on

like a sock stretched over his mouth.

At times, he held one hand to the

doors, felt the cool relief prickle over his skin.

One evening, he could stand it no longer.

Better, he thought, to live than fry.

He got out of bed

and opened all of the doors.

Iris A. Law
Iris A. Law

A graduate of the M.F.A. program at the University of Notre Dame, Iris A. Law is a Kundiman fellow and the editor of the online literary magazine and blog, Lantern Review. Her first chapbook, Periodicity, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2013.