Sick Day

Dawn sun streaks through the blinds and I would rather be sleeping
But I am reading, sipping echinacea lemon tea with honey
And remembering when I was ill as a child, terrified of the flu
I prayed Mom would stay home with me because
When I was sick she would be there there. And if she wasn’t
All I had to do was get a little sicker. I could call her
And she would let me watch TV on weekdays in a sleeping bag
While she ran to the store for popsicles and Saltines
Knowing she would return to pore over paperwork at the table
Or chat with her sister on the phone, hushing Kari’s sick
Checking on me when I didn’t get out of bed
One time she was still at work when I threw up and I cleaned
My own vomit off the sink. And cried because I wanted her there
To sit on the edge of my bed and smooth my hair
When she got home she said You didn’t have to do that, but I did
And I sank into her arms because breathing finally came easy again
Today I lie in a sleeping bag alone, writing poems and papers
Today I am an adult, taking care of myself
And missing my mother

Going into Surgery

The nurse inserts a needle under my skin
and I allow IV fluid into me. They warmed it.
Taped tubes fast to my bony arm.
He squeezes my hand to say, you will be okay.
I wrote my will at home, just in case.
Machines bleep and I sigh. Mostly it is quiet,
this early in the morning on the ward.
We snap a picture of me looking bleak.
Nurse returns, I am leaving now for the OR
in a squeaking gurney. She allows one last kiss.
Nurse and I chat as the ceiling slides past.
It’s just like sleeping, she says. I tell her
I haven’t slept well in a week; I might nod
into the next needle. You’ll feel it soon.
I wait for a rest and a dream.

When Grandparents Die

You don’t think much about phone calls
until it’s your mom’s voice relaying
something about a heart attack and
that awful phrase “make it through the night”
and a one-way flight to faraway elsewhere.

You don’t think much about hospitals
until your grandma is lying in one
bloated, face inflated from the IV
flooding her full of salt. Hold hands,
play hangman and pray she remembers words.

You don’t think much about cancer
until it is extracted with a scalpel
from your dad’s neck, ’til your family owns it
and cancer causes grandpa to lose his speech,
scaring you as a child as he hacks blood.

Now you think constantly about family,
of picture books and pencil sets, vacation,
hugs and lozenges and lightning bugs,
libraries, letters, turtle figurines, a pin
collection, catnaps, apples and cobbler,
of tears and memories and summer strolls.