Surfacing from days of pain,
she lit up at the apparition of our faces
as though she were entering paradise. 

In that moment of recognition 
we discovered our hunger to be so seen 
was unsated after all these years. 

She had emerged from a long tunnel
onto a road canopied by chestnut trees, and we, 
flower-burdened boughs, bowed above her bed. 

For days she spoke only of love,
her eyes ecstatic as a saint’s, and I learned 
I had been wrong about so many things:

I had mistaken words for all that lay beneath,
administered them to others like a host, as if 
placing them in another’s mouth could nourish.  

Pain, love, the only sacraments we know, 
always three steps ahead of the word, outrunning
every betrayal, great or small, of the tongue.