X-Ray image of a spine showing vertebrae closely knit together.

He unwrapped until his fingers reflected
against the shiny chamber, then smoothed
over the stock, its resting maple
variegations the same color as last night’s
pot roast. It’s perfect, he said,
as she dialed the bottle’s twist top, poured
another eggnog.

To line up with the deer, he needed the tree
stand, so he climbed and steadied his feet,
adjusted his left ear plug, looped the trigger,
and held his head vertical, still.
But, that extra height, those extra feet
wouldn’t support his own, recoiling him
to sixteen feet below.

We could fuse the vertebrae, but you could only sit up.
You won’t be able to walk again
, the neurosurgeon,
pointing to the tablet’s MRI film, told him,
his family. While the doctor translated until more
teams arrived, reprised questions, informed
about consent forms over the ventilator tube’s
din, his unharmed brain volleyed his neck
right, left, right, repeat over and over
until his wife translated–Shit. Unplug me.
I understand.
—and three hours later, he breathed
and stylussed signatures on his own.

So now, she strokes his inert hand, traces
the ring’s circle, watches an inverted receiving line
armed with bibles stop
at the bed’s end, a makeshift photo booth
like the one at Rexall’s in Seymour, where there,
like here, only moments await until another flash,
the end of the visit. A cousin describes the drive
in from Evansville, excitement over this year’s Eagle
Watch Weekend, then a grade school friend palms
his forearm and whispers God has prepared for those
who love him
, as he watches the horseshoe-shaped
visitors view him
as through an aperture.


Photo by warrenski, used and adapted under CC.