By Miriam Vermilya

On Hearing of the Death of a Friend

The very air of the room where you are
sitting or just standing by the window
rarifies, retracts, reminds how everything
falls away—family, friends, whatever
can be known and loved falls away.
Beyond the window, stillness—

the morning world bowed down
in silence, life lines sagging ground-
wise, bush, branch and vine strangled
by the ice born of a late winter storm.
Shuddering, the sycamore bends
beneath its burden, brought to its
knees with a sound like gunshot,

weakened heartwood exposed,
falling away, the way it all falls
away: branch and twig, friend
and brother, even madness, stilled
at last, even sorrow, even love—
even that, in the end, falls away.

From the book Heartwood