You pour a cup of pecans
Like a kid catching raindrops
In a bucket.
Careful not to spill,
Your fingers playing tremolo on a
Violin-string cup measure.
Mouth, warm, with
Tongue searching the lips
For forgotten first lines of bedtime stories
Like misplaced glasses, resting on your head.
I read to you, now,
In hospital beds.
Forehead wrinkles stacked
In three creases–
Your crossword face,
Mouth-chewed pencil between your lips,
Scooping for synonyms
As you now scoop sugar.
Patient tablespoons of vanilla
Heaped with the effort
Of standing up for fifteen minutes
I see myself, always
through a stark looking glass
the fun house view of my own face
reflected in the eyes of my patients–
tangled in the bleeding strands
that line the gray sclera of the meth addict
drowning in the pooling ink that splits
the swelling pupil of the hemorrhagic stroke
swimming in the antibiotic slather
that blurs the newborn’s first gaze–
my clouded countenance,
slipping even through parched flesh
along the steely glide of the angiocath
glistening in the fluid bag
of intravenous medication
from the sliding metal
the articles went first.
then the pronouns, the verbs,
nouns. they melted away, leaving
only memories of warmth
cradled by salivary glands.
adjectives flutter behind
my front teeth, ready for flight.
only adverbs remain,
curled beneath my tongue–
the softest words of vocabulary.
the lilt of my voice has left too,
soapy Californian vowels
when i speak to my mother,
she complains of my consonants,
how they have begun
to iron out cadences, climb
over inflections, ride
them into deep sand. she says
only my whisper remains whole.
Mary E. Moore
Tipping forward to escape
the wheelchair’s confines, the ancient one
pleads with her feet, “Go home.”
It’s her companion who volunteers
the Chief Complaint: “Ever since her stroke,
Mother’s back seems to hurt.
Her doctors say there’s nothing can be done,
but I thought that perhaps a specialist ….”
She strokes the old woman’s shoulders.
“Does it hurt here, or there, or if I touch this?”
My fingers probe among birdish bones.
Ignoring me, the patient whimpers, “Home.”
When the daughter’s eyes register pain, I say,
“I’ll inject this spot near her sacroiliac joint.
Outline the night and all its objects
in black magic marker.
The world through closed eyes
the way tires need tread,
brains need wrinkles, and hypnosis
needs the power of suggestion–
traction, surface area, and control
might also apply to a cat
buried alive underneath the sheets;
if so, don’t forget the one on top.
Stay up for several nights before
the night you plan to sleep.
Oil the ceiling fan.
True or false: the bladder
is on a separate circuit?
Don’t eat in bed, especially chips.
Snoring + sleep apnea +
Today, her head is spinning, just like yesterday,
And the day before that. She is dizzy, experiencing
pain we can’t know unless our heads have hurt like
she hurts now. All she wants is to lie down, and
when we tell her she just woke up, she says she
can’t sleep, because we don’t understand that
she’s not concerned with the sleeping. She’s the
same with food, telling us everything tastes bad,
merely eating to keep from being hungry.
She felt nothing to be worth doing after the fence fell,
just another part of
Drifting on the sea of disease
in a cardboard boat,
never knowing when the slash
of a spinal eel
will lunge from its coral-bone cave
and cut through
of a once dancing ankle
or the push of a thigh
singing race or run.
Waiting without wanting–
as the slap of a wave
against the paper-thin stern
brings on the storm
that pummels every movement
until you slip into a coma of the wind;
Part I: The first time I saw you
I met John
Part II: Cadaver as Decapod
John was surely a hermit crab, having four small limbs to anchor the body and six long
limbs to advance it. He gathered sea anemones on his back, and weeds in his spiny beard. He bore
stellate scars, the digitated marks of five pointed teeth. There was a constellation of them, surely
from the care of blue spined urchins. The urchins couldn’t make him stay. Did they evict him
The chopped apple of her father’s eye,
She tastes the grapes of her mother’s drunken wrath
The barely visible slivers of silver-tongued almond
Needle her intestines as she savors
The seedless watermelon of fruitless friendships,
And endures the hard rind
Of a body gone awry,
To be chewed and chewed until swallowed or
Spat out. A salad of sorts
Surrounded by lemons
Home-grown, organic, bitter
And full of juice. She brings me a tough
Clear plastic bag filled with them
To our session.
“They’re the last of the season,” she tells me.