"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Y'all know I write because I can't NOT write, but rarely does anything I write come to me in the form of poetry. Last night, though, on the edge of sleep, these words did. Maybe because I was feeling a little under-the-weather over the weekend, though not NEARLY as much as lots of you guys fighting all kinds of coughs and flu and fevers. I just wanted to complain and be taken care of a little I guess, and it brought back memories and when I woke up this morning, the words were still there.


I come back quietly from a child's fever dream
And she is there at the end of the sickbed
Eyes closed, but flickering, not sleeping --
She might have dozed off but she knows
Immediately I'm awake now.

All night and all day
She has been catching my sickness
In her thin brown hands
With thin brown arms.
Ready with her mother's armor of
Tea and toast, noodle soup, ginger ale.
She keeps the room dark.

In my sleep I hear a television
Turned low,
A door opening gently, a quiet murmur,
A tip-toeing aunt: “How is she?”

My head hurts. She sets off
To get the children's aspirin,
Crushing it between two teaspoons and water,
Spoons it in. Rubs me with alcohol,
Cold washcloths. I smell only clean.
I feel the sheet, cool underneath me.
I don't know what time it is.
I wait only for her face, her hands,
Her arms, her voice,
The voice I know from inside her womb.

“Will you read to me?” I ask.
Poetry, when I'm sick; I'm sure she
Wonders why. The rhythm, the rhyme,
The soothing predictability comforting.
I don't have to follow. Her voice lulls.

I am so important right now,
I will be better because she will make it so.
She knows what to do,
She does it.
I fall in and out of sleep,
Once to wake seeing her walking away;
“Don't go,” I say, “Stay...don't go.”
She will be right here, she says.
I'm not going far, she says;
If you need me, I'll be right nearby.

A half-century now gone in the blink of an eye,
A time when I knew nothing
And she knew everything
And I knew everything
And she knew nothing.

And “I'm going here,” I would say,
“Or there, and I'll be home late, so
Don't wait up,” but later
She would tell me, she couldn't sleep
Until she heard the door close
And the lock turn.
(And she had two of us.)
“Not like your father,” she said,
“He let me do the worrying.”

On Christmas, on my birthday,
On Valentine's Day
She sleeps now, peacefully
And deeply
I hope,
Beneath the snow.

She lay bravely in her bed,
Let them do what they had to do,
I waited;
The hum of machinery
Next to us, rhythmic,
Like a heart beat, like breath.

I wet her lips,
I smooth her hair. They tell me she just
Won't give up.
She loves too much.
She is too strong and brave.

Her feet moving slightly
Her eyes flicker.
My head swims and sings
I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

Out in the hall it is the same as ever.
People move. People shout. Nurses sit at the
Station, making notes. They check on her.
They have seen this before.
They are kind.
She should hear life.

Her breathing is uncomfortably loud,
Too shallow.
Her face changes colors. “I am here,” I say,
I kiss her forehead.
I take her thin brown hand.
I tell her, “Go.”
Her lips are still, but I hear her,
I know her voice from inside her womb:
I'm not going far, she says;
If you need me, I'll be right nearby.

© Laurie Isabella Blair, 2017

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