Sunday, April 8, 2012


When I wake up there is stainless steel and screaming.
I try to open my mouth to see if it’s me.  I guess not.
I wonder if I can move, if I have a morphine drip.

She keeps coming at me in her lily dress, so white in the blazing sun.
I keep firing.  But she pops up again and again, getting closer until
I can reach out and touch her dress,
a beautiful beating blossom of blood from her breast.

We put up a light in the front yard.  I go to ask my dad if we can turn it off so I can see the stars tonight.  “Nah, we got some people camping and they are less than enchanted with us already.  All’s we need is for them to trip and fall in the dark and sue us.”
He’s at his workbench in the garage, plywood and two by fours stained with oil and grease.  “Here, unplug this.  The cord goes there.  See?  There.”  I look at the maze of pegboard traced with outlines like bodies.  He hands me a couple of Kennedy half-dollars.  They go in the Amoco oilcan.

Talk about brain-injury.  Lady Bird saw Jackie like a coverlet of pink blossoms over the President.  Something gray on the trunk of the limo, something darker staining her lithe suit, her face.

“We shoulda named you Jack.”  Mother says as she fills the sinks with the beans I planted.  On the poles they got almost as tall as saguaros out West.  Green, yellow, purple.  They don’t mind the sand if they get enough water.  A hoot owl and white crested blackbird tore out of the cedar.  The owl landed on a power line, it’s white chest feathers glowing golden white in the warmth of the setting sun.  I started to hoot at it until Mother scolded me:  “It’s back luck to mock the owl.  It will call sorrow to your name.”

I look at my IV’d hand.  That must have been something when they figured that out:  a plastic line to your veins that could be capped and rehooked for each new drip.  What if my vein collapsed?  When they went to have Theo put down, the vet couldn’t find a vein.  He couldn’t walk anymore; everything seemed to be folding up in him.  Black cats spied in on us from the top of the cubicle walls and then the poison finally went to his heart.  A great gush of blood flooded from his nose and mouth.  I crushed his bloody, furry face to my neck.  I cried like a baby.

If I can’t walk, I want to be put down.  Couldn’t they just let me know now?  I’d do it myself.  I’d give myself the shot.  I’d stab it right in my heart.  I wonder if I can lift my hand at all?

I brought Mother yellow roses that she loved and the spearmint that was in bloom then.  “The Harrison rose wants pruning every year.  Cut it back hard, or it won’t bloom,” she was picking at some imaginary lint on the stitching rows of her quilt.  They offered me a book on dying, so I’d know what to expect, the stages, the steps, but I didn’t want to know.  Every couple of days I saw a quilt covered gurney rolling out.  I didn't need a book to tell me what that meant.  Mother smiled at me with her blue eyes shining, “You are my light.”  I gave her some mint blossoms to hold, to smell, to remember all the summers.  She inhaled them deeply and then began to pick at the quilt again, like at potato bugs or Mexican bean beetles, bright yellow against the broad green leaves.

Blood goes to the site of the trauma.  If it leaks out, it’s like acid to the tissue around it; whole sections of the brain could drown, connections break down.  I looked at the bruised yellow back of my hand where the IV was taped.  Someday they’ll drip nano bits into the blood stream, some kind of mini-chip will run through the body, assessing, repairing.

Mother had a bad dream.  A wooden beam was slowly lowering down on her head.  She couldn’t lift it up.  It was crushing her.  I was staying with her when I could, on a cot in her room.  I slept with a rose on my pillow.  One blossom always seemed to fall off any bouquet I brought her.  I liked to think it was my true love longing to be with me.

I rolled her bed outside in a little courtyard where the finches and sparrows chattered.  It was nearing autumn; the fuzzy sumacs blazed against the bright yellow of the gumweed while the pines and popples whispered above.  Far off a red-tailed hawk circled, sighting for mice.

Mother began to cry.  I thought she was crying because she was sad that she was dying, but she said through her tears,  “It’s all so beautiful.”


  1. It is important to let every color bloom, and to pay attention to it as the background and foreground of life, like wallpaper, and a garden. Every blossom is beautiful, I think, as Mother in this piece testifies.

    This is wonderful. More please. After you said your prose in your journal felt right before writing your last post-poem, I wondered if you would share prose here. So glad you did.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Of course, I felt after posting this that I should have tightened it up into some kind of poem form (!). I didn't get the happy rush I usually do after crafting a poem. I didn't clap my hands and say "Yes, Yes, that's what I wanted to do." I wrote this while lying on my back and taking a low-level opiate for pain. I wasn't sure if the flow would work, if the story, as it is, would be engaging. I also wasn't totally happy with the ending. My main character's story has lots of holes that aren't answered and I'm not sure where we are at the ending: does the main character find peace from Mother's words? Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    2. I did not realize how terrible it had gotten for you, I'm so sorry. I'm glad to hear that you are doing a bit better. But I do hope you will find relief from the pain and discomfort. It is such a challenge to feel life shift like this. The affect on the psyche is huge, when you can't do what you used to. This is where much of my adjustment has come, like you I used to rush around everywhere. I'm not that person any more, and I still feel sad about it. Anyway, I didn't mean to go off into pity, but I truly empathize with you, though my pain is nothing like what you have been through. Please be well.

  2. this is perfect and dream-like in its connections

    i think the knowledge of death may be necessary for the sense of beauty, either the knowledge that what we are seeing is transitory or that we ourselves are transitory -- though these two are, as someone wise pointed out to me very recently, really one and the same ...

    1. Thank you, James. I'm still struggling with the concept of death. It has been almost five years since my mother passed and I still wonder at it all.

  3. it was a wonderful exploration, jane, although i have to admit that i will have to come back and read it again without inserting concern for you into my reading. i've been thinking of you the last few days and how you responded to a post my way and then again through this.

    i love that you test yourself, that you push yourself in uncomfortable directions. we gain by this. i imagine you do too.

    your ending immediately brought me to mind of this post -

    i think your ending is important. somehow it slows a moment for me and reminds me to pay attention - before the moment is gone.


    1. Thank you, erin. I am doing better. I am still quite sore and having a slow recovery. Some of this is real, some imagined, some hallucinated. I have been catching up on reading "The New Yorker" magazines that have been stacking up. I can hold a magazine while lying flat on my back. I read a rather long piece about the Kennedy assassination which fed into my thoughts. I really was so unsure about the ending, but having read what you linked to--Close the window, it is too beautiful--wow.

  4. I'm pretty new to both your writing and whatever is going on in your life so you can look at me as a more or less objective pair of eyes on this. I thought it was a very well built piece, resonant with a lot of the common denominators we need to connect, but also nicely surreal and edgy, a cut then a distraction then a healing, then another cut, but almost painless because the razor is honed sharp as sharp. Many of the observations (the Kennedy stuff, the garden flashbacks, the owl) feel straight from the subconscious well, floating on the top of reason and experience like cream. Your character drawing of your mother is very moving,(even to someone like myself missing a positive mother vibe-)-she is extremely human and present here, both in a way that inspires sympathy, and a way that says she doesn't need it. I liked this whole piece very much, and I hope you continue to write, and also to feel better. Ops suck, the more major, the more suckage.

  5. Thank you so much for your comment. It's good to know that this resonates.

  6. Sorry to hear about the illness -- whatever it is, hope you're faring better. I like how this started as a poem -- a sort of structuring, which happens coming to in post-op -- and then goes into a reverie of prose, drifting in and out, weaving the nearness of one's own mortalities with memories of other losess -- the pet that was put down, the memories of family now gone. Writing about something so near always invokes pathos -- how could it not -- yet also wonder. ("It's all so beautiful.") Though the resulting form is an odd flower (publication would probably mean rendering it fully into poetry or prose), it's perfect in its own way. Be well. - Brendan