Tag Archive | death

Giveth, Taketh


I stepped into the waiting room a bit late
Sorry, I’m late, my appointment is for…
Take a seat, someone will be with you shortly.
Sat down, waited
Waited for the intake clerk to call my name

Put on this gown
Take off everything from the waist up
Store your clothes in this locker
Don’t forget to take the key
I locked my upper coverings in the locker
And sat quietly for my turn
Locked up my straining emotions

When the news came last month
That I had to go for extra tests
More views and an ultrasound
Breast cancer, an epidemic,
I didn’t panic
I traveled to Florida first
To see Atlantis, the last space shuttle lift off into space
I forced my mind to think of other things
Alligators, eagles, flying fish and rockets
To the moon or bust.
To the moon, Alice!

This bust has been nothing but trouble for me
Buttons that won’t close at the top
Though the bottom fits
Underwires are like wearing prison bars
Staring guy eyes
Mammary glands, how strange
Peculiar to mammals
None for alligators, eagles, or flying fish
How do sea turtles survive without mammary glands?
Mine refused to cooperate for their intended purpose
Suckling my young
As though they were saying,
Hey, we’re here for show
We don’t work for a living
It’s not in our contract.

So as I was saying
I took the extra required views
Actually of the right breast only
The left has been well behaved lately
A painful squeezing of the tissue up against the xray machine
Bam! Zap! Kaboom!
But with menopause, not as painful as before
When my vital tissues were young and more filled with life
The glands are emptying out now, drying up.

And then I waited some more
Longer in the waiting room in my hospital gown
Locker key on a curly chain around my wrist
And waited, waited, waited for the news from the doctor.

In time, the technician came back to see me
Good news, you don’t need an ultrasound
Here’s a paper, keep it for your records
It says you are free of cancer
It was just a shadow on the film
Nothing to be concerned about
Have we done a good job serving you today?
Have you found the waiting room comfortable?
You’ll be mailed a survey about your experience
I hope you agree that we’ve served you well today.

I dressed and returned the key to its rightful locker
And left the hospital
Strolled right out, safe for another year
Putting the whole thing to rest until the next annual scrutiny.

And on the way home,
A hawk flew
Not to the moon
But right into the car traveling in front of me
Strange, I thought hawks were smart
Smart enough to avoid cars
And never fly that low
But I was wrong
The hawk flew straight into the car
Fell under its wheels
Majestic grey and brown feathers shattered
Scattered all around
Like the foam
Falling off the space shuttle
And just like that infamous Columbia foam
That dashed the wings of the shuttle
Dooming it to disintegrate upon reentry into the world
The bird was dashed upon the pavement
Feathers ripped from its body
Quivering, lying in the street
Waiting, waiting, waiting to die.



The almighty



In my life
There were women who held dear
Who pulled and pushed and made me strong
Because their lives were hard
So difficult, they knew no other way

Estelle comes to mind
My grandmother
Who escaped the harshness of the old country
And found America
As a child,
She worked in the mills
Hour after hour
Dreaming of school
Her keen mind hungering for exercise
Longing for a world she could never reach
Finally she gave in to her God
After ninety three years
Her brain stopped its treadmill
Of worries and despair and regrets
Gave way to the foggy past
And disappeared into the heavens.

My mother
Devoured science fiction
Rejected any notion of the past
She clung to a dream of a world
Where fathers and sons
Would never take their own lives
Where daughters were encouraged
To go to college
It was a vision unattainable to Joyce
So in the end
Her brain snapped
All function ceased
And the fierce intelligence that was my mother
Vanished overnight, poof, in its sixty third year
The stars in the heavens still suffer
From the loss.

There were others
Those who could taste joy
And the beauty of the world

Claire, sweet Claire
My mother-in-law
Who sewed and knitted and baked
And sang and played her piano
And rode her bicycle and gardened
Always smiling
Living the small moments of the day
The world was jealous
Of such an exquisite flower
Some angry god or another
Got to her first
Shriveled her brain slowly
Time by time by endless time
Ravaged her senses
But eventually
Finally, mercifully
Our childlike, almost virginal beauty
Was allowed to meet her true maker.

And now, as if this wasn’t enough
As if my grandmother and mother and mother-in-law
As if Estelle and Joyce and Claire
Were nothing to eternity
My daughter Laura
Gets her brains bashed in
By someone deranged or high
Looking for cash for his next fix
Skull cracked open
And Laura loses grey matter
But oh so luckily
The gods show compassion
Perhaps it was not her time
And somehow, she lives.

But not my lovely Lorna
Future mother and friend
To her adoring community
Joy bringer
Bearer of happiness and loyalty and practicality
Sixty years of marriage and children
And kale soup
Though her kind, gentle hands were weak
Her mind was clear and expressive
Until the other sudden day
When she lost her words
Her brain would not be contained
Finally, love was all that remained
All thought stopped
So today
Lorna gave in to the need for her final sleep
And though it came too soon
Who can ever blame her for choosing loving rest?

And me?
I suppose I will follow these women
Whose lives and deaths
Speak to the almighty power of the brain
To give and to receive
To mercifully allow
To cruelly take
To live, to die