The old woman bends forward, rubbing life into her putrid socks to ease the black pain emanating from her gangrenous toes. All the while, she coughs, calling it “the other person inside of me.”

Sometimes the cough flares up and takes over like a body snatcher. Her lungs are shriveled beans under the apron-thin hospital gown—sterile, cold. She shivers.

The old woman will fight her doppelganger. She refuses to become piecemeal.

A nasal cannula provides thin streams of oxygen, a tenuous leash, that only allows for fitful sleep. Breathing through this unforgiving straw, not quite underwater, she regiments her pills and creams, scratching and scraping, determined to reanimate the dead skin the doctor threatens with a bone saw.

Joe Amaral
Arroyo Grande, California 


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