Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What The Cicada Leaves Behind


Her back, mottled, peeks through the gown. The dull
hospital thrum backgrounds her bent spine
as she does a frail shuffle on stick-figure legs across
the Radiography Unit to yet another examination
of what, in her organs, is causing her to die. They don't know.
They can't find it. So they just go on looking, hoping
something will show up. And you have to ask: for what?
She's on her way out, it's not actually going to help her.
Ego? Ensuring money flows through the system? Statistics
being counted? Or just the need to put a face on death?

I hold the slack reptile skin of her hand, bird-claw light,
as they rub on the gel and her widening eyes try to grasp
what is happening. 'It's all right, Mum, it's jelly; makes
it easier to run the thing over your tummy.' And she submits.
'Where are we?' 'In the hospital, Mum.'
Our small, dim cubicle is off in one wing, down
a linoleum corridor - follow the green line - where
the occasional click of heels penetrates the purposeful hum
of healing: a web of hospitals all over the world trying
to keep us alive, or leveraging our dying. 'Where are we?'

As I help her to dress, holding up the gown as a screen,
I catch a glimpse of her collapsed breasts and discover
that skin can, indeed, hang off bone - skeletally thin
she manages, somehow, to occupy space: a twig person
barely scratching dust. I spent my life turned away
from her - the crazy, strident claws of her spite;
her mummy's need. That blot I locked in deep.
Now, my father long dead, duty turns to kindness
and I walk beside her, and sit in waiting rooms,
so that she can know kin is near: another, close, will stay.

I held my father's hand while he died. I will, if I can, do the same here.


19 February 2013

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