Something You Left to Me
This box of apothecary vials with black rubber stops.
A strip of masking tape runs the length of each vial.
Scribbled on each strip, the name of a national park:
Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Redwood—
nine bottles in all, but you wanted still more
before the thing in your lungs finally killed you.
The vials look empty, but I know they’re not—
not because you told me, but because I was there.
Each contains air from the park on the label,
air the only stuff you could steal without guilt.
You’d hold the vial above your head and explain
how no one can die while surrounded by beauty.
Which is why it ended in a machine-filled room,
stifling, falsely lit, encircled by a plastic curtain.
Air was all you needed. I should have crawled in,
unstopped the vials, and touched each mouth to your lips.
Owen McLeod, Yale Review. 2018