Thursday, February 25, 2016

Recovery Room

I suppose you could blow Bessie's hair
right out of her head and the white strands
like a dandelion would scatter among
the young grasses and sprout weeds in
her memory. Or you could step off the
fields between wrinkles where the cutting
edges of the gullies have made a quilt
of her skin. She has presence, like
a landscape, and subtlety, because
she groans intermittently in the mist
as the weather sharpens. They calibrate
her and anoint her with loud shadows
and clasp her fingers. She squeezes back
like the rain and I think I can hear
the drip-drop in her vessels
as she gathers her 93 years into
a great ball of yarn. One morning
she'll arise among the mountains
and I'll think of her as a cloud
or a boulder or a foothold where I
slip in a boot as I clamber up the ridges.
I'll feel her sighs like a light wind
on my eyelids and the one eye that was
still left in her forehead a quarter moon
in the ascending darkness. I'll remember
the stone shards that I shook incredulously
like a rattle as I watched the puff puff
of her breath moisten the plastic
smokestack that jutted out of her mouth.
I'll remember the saline that leaked into
our arteries like sand in an hourglass.

She stirs suddenly like a reticulated
python, one section, then another,
till all of her is quivering, then
as suddenly she is stiller than the ceiling.
My legs tingle like crystal and my
buttocks is basin of warm water,
and in a northern summit somewhere
where I'm shivering, I'm listening
to Bessie whisper about how she has
come back.

(This poem appeared in College English.)

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