–for Jean Fergusson

I can hear them in there, laughing,
the nurses on the children’s cancer ward,
as I walk through, my heart snagged
on a child in room 206, the boat of my hopes
tipping its freight into the water,
because kids in here are dying,
like trees turning in the fall
so slowly that we have to dwell
on each interval of suffering.

The door opens a slice and I see nurses
leaning into laughter, collapsing,
gripping each other’s arms.  Their laughter
skates on air, it fills the room up,
it towers above us.  I shut the door.

They laugh because grief adheres to them
as desire adheres to beautiful women. 
They have to pick it from their fur.  They
have to help each other comb it out. 
They study jokes as farm girls study
dresses in a catalogue.  They balance
on a high beam of laughter, knowing 
if they laugh they might come back tomorrow.