The trees on the hospital lawn are lush and thriving. They too are getting the best of care, like you, and the anonymous many, in the clean rooms high above this city, where day and night the doctors keep arriving, where intricate machines chart with cool devotion the murmur of the blood, the slow patching-up of bone, the despair of the mind.
When I come to visit and we walk out into the light of a summer day, we sit under the trees — buckeyes, a sycamore, and one black walnut brooding high over a hedge of lilacs as old as the red-brick building behind them, the original hospital built before the Civil War.
We sit on the lawn together, holding hands while you tell me: you are better. How many young men, I wonder, came here, wheeled on cots off the slow trains from the red and hideous battlefields to lie all summer in the small and stuffy chambers while doctors did what they could, longing for tools still unimagined, medicines still unfound, wisdoms still unguessed at, and how many died staring at the leaves of the trees, blind to the terrible effort around them to keep them alive? I look into your eyes
which are sometimes green and sometimes gray, and sometimes full of humor, but often not, and tell myself, you are better, because my life without you would be a place of parched and broken trees. Later walking the corridors down to the street, I turn and step inside an empty room. Yesterday someone was here with a gasping face. Now the bed is made all new, the machines have been rolled away. The silence continues, deep and neutral, as I stand there, loving you.