Small Flame

The stroke team, fierce as aliens
in their masks and harsh lights,
rolled you back to your room,
sitting high in your bed and flashing
a victory smile,
bag of magic dripping
into your veins, danger dissolving
like falling stars.


My hero, you called out to the neurologist,
Close call, he chimed in,
tapping your feet. Lift your right arm—No,
your other right arm
,
his face going stern when you couldn’t
say your name—then time
slowed.
The room cleared. Your mother
arrived, a furious crow, yelling
down the hall at me, Go home!
You’re not family! Go home!

and you twisted your face,
a curtain away.


That night I sat by your bed,
repeating, Your body is already
remembering itself
,
and you shook your head, No,
finally mouthing, I’ll try,
as light reflected off the East River,
saturating the room.


And you did try, and got back
your words, and your sardonic eyebrow,
and pressed your feet
against the therapist’s hands.
Friends spoon-fed you cranberry juice
and crushed ice.
Your narrow body cramped,
and you gripped my hand
as the clock moved its heavy arms.


Then surgeons took over,
and sewed a pump into your chest.
A machine forced your breath
and they closed ranks around you.


I see you at the stove, stirring black beans
and corn, hands fragrant with basil.
I see your son—feet big, arms wild—clattering
down the stairs, to hug me goodbye.
I see you smiling in your old way,
tubes rooted in your arm: Life’s too short
for bullshit. Get the spare parts
and fix me
—and I hold
like a small flame, your face
against white pillows.

Storyscape Literary Journal (as "Second Round")

and Sober Cooking