Saturday, July 13, 2013

In the hospital

I did something in that hospital 
that I never told anyone. 
It happened when I was alone 
with my mother in the last weeks, 
when she is not conscious, 
and I did it only for seconds at a time, 
when I didn't think my mother lived 
in that little body any more,
(Are we in our bodies or are we our bodies?), 
while I sat by her bed trying to remember 
her without white hair and parched lips, 
without ashen arms, noticing how thin her fingers 
had grown, the strange long nails that seemed 
not to know it was time to stop--no one had 
trimmed them since she fell 
(Only now I wonder, why didn't I trim them?), 
watching her mind-essence slumber, 
this barely breathing body, 
trying to remember her right leg, 
cut off just the other day with my permission, 
but not hers--how my sister and I agonized 
about letting it go, right below the knee, 
under the patella--the doctor said her bones 
were too thin, fissured like glaciers. 
Even in this near death sleep my mother 
sensed her leg's absence. Her fingers woke up, 
moved down her thigh like a spider, tapped 
just above the knee, no doubt sensing something 
was not right, deceived by a phantom, 
and that's when I lifted the sheet from her thigh 
and looked at that stump, thinking, this isn't human 
but an animal, not the limb she was born 
with and had used every day around the mall, 
and then I made myself touch it--I had to force myself--
I placed my hand gently on her thigh, stroked the 
bandaged joint now connected to nothing, to empty space, to air, 
because I wanted to see, because I didn't want to see, 
but thought I must to show her I'm not afraid, 
that this is nothing to be upset about, that life is still worth living, 
and then tears welled up, flooding my vision, 
my throat, for my mother, the amputee.