68 - TheMichigan Daily Weekend, etc. Magaine -Thursday, March 9, 2000
Sestina For My Mother
The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazin
Assuming he was here
A tinfoil voice asks me to say a poem.
Next door, an EKG chirps rhythmically.
One hand is not twitching, h nehand clutches
tissues splotched with black. It is a lucid
request, her first all afternoon, reminds
of what's caught in the teeth of psychosis.
I derail by memory's closing clutches,
hear that voice drowne in static, "psychosis"
was unsaid, my brother's words terribly lucid
still, like something out of a Ted Hughes poem:
Mom took some pills. Sobs broke in,
He was a baby before, is not reminded
of a towel, a knife, a note. Reminder
shot me into the car that groaned and clutched
hard on the highway, while I rhythmically
spun panicked pictures with wheels. Psychosis
is all molars, but sharp at first. A poem
of shocked sestets, caesuras of lucidity.
She asks again for a poem. I'm lucid,
forget the doctors! Her eyes remind
me of tarpits: dark, bubbling. There's a poem.
I don't see paper here, still my hand clutches
a smuggled ballpoint (no "sharps" in the Psych
Ward). A guard jingles his keys rhythmically.
1 am stroking her forehead rhythmically,
maybe for hours. If it were pellucid
I could see the snarled net of psychosis,
a Gordian convergence. Reminder
slips by in a salty coat. She clutches
at her thin blanket as I say her poem:
Stars are always lucid. Let their rhythmic pulse remind
of years penciled on drywall, of our hands clutching
my psychotic red kite, scribbling the sky with poems.
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TO ALL THE FINE
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- FROM JEFF
I flipped up the pull of the zipper on
my teal, insulation-thick winter coat and
pulled it into my mouth. The metallic
taste filled my mouth. I jammed my
thumbs against the pink cuffs and twisted
my legs together under the metal chair
with the tan seat. I looked at my mom.
She was watching the doorway where my
father stood. I looked at my dad. He
turned around and looked at my mother.
He told her something, but I couldn't
hear the words his eyes spoke. He moved
like someone had taken a bat and halved
each bone in his body. He sat next to my
mother. She reached over and rubbed the
spine between his angel's wings. He rest-
ed his broken elbows on his shattered
knees and laid his face down in the bowl
his chapped hands formed. A squeaky
sob escaped from his tightly shut mouth.
I kicked my legs from beneath the
square seat. I caught a piece of my tongue
between the zipper pull and my lower two
front teeth and bit down. Blood, saliva
and metal coated my taste buds as my
brown eyes focused on the salty dis-
charge covering my father's sagging
cheeks. (He had dragged his face out of
his hands and was now resting it on the
tips of his fingers.) My mother became
his mother. Her voice rose to the pitch
she used the day I dragged my bike and
myself into the yard, covered with blood.
Blood, saliva, and a hot pink ten-speed.
Grandma walked across the waiting
room and sat down. She looked worried,
and mildly confused. And angry. She sat
down, folding and refolding her hands
that rested on her belly.
His lungs were filling with fluid. He
couldn't breathe. That's what they told
me. He'd had another stroke and it didn't
look like he was going to pull through. I
didn't want to see. A few years earlier I
had seen all the tubes. He had looked so
pale against the white sheets in the glow
of the fluorescent lights. Lying in that
bed, he looked like jello. Clear jello. I was
relieved that my mother didn't tell me to
kiss him when we left that day.
My uncle flew in from Texas. My aunt
arrived from Chicago. My grandfather
moved out of intensive care. My brother
and I could go see him. My dad asked me
if I wanted to go in with them. I lowered
my eyes -and shook my head. Later, he
asked me why I decided not to see my
grandpa for the last time. I told him I
wanted to remember him as alive, not
I did not tell him I was afraid of clear
I was three years old. The slaps of my
white shoes were lost in the layers of soft
grass. My pink dress bobbed up and
down in time with the golden curls that
sprouted from my head. I ran around the
corner and into the knee of my grandfa-
ther. He scooped me up, laughing, and
carried me to the picnic table. He stood
straight. He walked.
It's not true. I made up that memory. I
never owned a pink dress. But he did
stand straight when I was three years old.
He didn't hide his left arm under a gray
cardigan. That's the way I'll remember
The way I can't remember.
Once a month, on Sunday, after
church, we drove to Albion to visit my
grandfather in the nursing home. My
brother and I usually got bored. I don't
remember what my parents talked about
with grandpa because I usually wasn't
paying attention. If the weather was nice,
we would take grandpa for a walk. We
usually stuck to the parking lot because
the sidewalk was uneven. Grandpa
always cheered up when we went for a
We went for a walk, but he couldn't
Sometimes my brother and I would
take turns pushing his chair. As a nine-
year-old I was convinced my arms were
superhuman, because, skinny as they
were, they could move a full-grown man.
One day, grandpa couldn't figure out
who we were. He asked grandma where
by Emily Mather
their children were. I wonder if my dad
cried that night. I wonder if my dad ever
cried. Once he told me that grandpa liked
me because he thought I was Aunt Linda.
Apparently, Aunt Linda didn't get along
so well with her father, and since I was a
little girl ... who smiled at him and
kissed him when we left ... I became the
little girl who forgave him. The little girl
who loved him.
Maybe my little girl will become my
My grandfather had his last stroke'
Christmas Day. A little after midnight, on
the edge of a new year, my father picked
up the phone and learned that grandpa:
had died. He left. My brother crept down
the hall and hesitated, calling gently
before he pushed open the door that was
open a crack. My mother told him come
in, sit on the bed, yes, grandpa died. I lay
on my bed; eyes open wide, staring at a
ceiling I couldn't see. I flipped over and!
stuffed my face in my pillow, strangling
the sobs that threatened to bring my par-
ents into my room. Ten years old, I insist-
ed on dealing with the first shell of a
human left behind after the soul departed
Death would not be so horrible if we
didn't have to see what was left behind.
His body's still here, where did he go?
Heaven? Hell? Nowhere? If he didn't
really leave, then why doesn't he move
anymore? Who shut his mouth, closed
Maybe all he ever was was clear jello.
I'm looking at a photo that was taken
at the funeral. I wore a purple sweater.
And a smile. You can almost see every
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