Listen to Tom Sleigh read this poem.
The first word God said made everything
out of nothing. But the nothing shows through—
through his breathing on the tape casette,
so slow, so tentatively regular, so almost
at an end although it doesn't end but keeps
refreshing itself over in the quiet it's
recorded in, that it almost seems to float
in like a medium of water, deep down
near the bottom of something too dark
to see through. God isn't speaking to him breathing
in his coma breath, God is saying nothing
inside the nothing out of which the everything
is waiting for his breath to breathe into it.
My friend's breath is running out. Only on this tape
can I hear him as he lies there. His breathing
is the breath that makes me catch my own breath
coming into my lungs as the sound comes
into my ears and into my brain and into some where
inside me I know is being hollowed out
by each breath of his preparing a nothing
that is so dark and seamless I lose sight
of him being borne away on the currents
of his breathing that inflates into the everything
the nothing wants to be. When he lay there,
shrinking back away from sunset, the nurse said
his fear was common, called "sundowning."
And when he finally settled down, and later sank
into a coma, he began breathing just this way,
breath flowing out, flowing in, while the nothing
moved on the face of everything and God
climbed down into the rising of it.
Tom Sleigh's most recent books are Space Walk, a volume of poetry, and Interview With a Ghost, a collection of essays.
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