New Birth

New Birth

The phone rings four times in the very early morning.
I reach between the bars of the hospital bed
I have been sharing with you for the past hour
and grab the handset of the phone,
hear the long beep of the fax connecting
to announce Art Fest 2001
for the fourth time in the past two days.

Three times I’ve asked to be taken from their list.
Yet still, in this early morning
more intimate than our honeymoon,
the phone rings and rings,
as though even as you decide
to be rid of the world, the world is not quite rid of you.

At the end of your life, we pull ourselves into this house, then into this room.
“Roll the pain up in a ball,” I say, “and toss it away,”
And so, just as we had decided to venture once more out into the world,
the world rolls up into a ball of pain suspended in the air above your bed.

The morphine works only as a distraction.
You moan and make broad gestures, trying to pick the wildflowers
you see growing from the ceiling.
You say they are blue. “Not my style,” you say,
as though any flowers are your style.

You grow imperious,
calling out for chipped ice, not cubed, in the bottle, not the glass.
Knit socks become too uncomfortable, their threads pushing against your skin,
so you ask for those more finely woven.
I ease them over your swollen feet–like trying to squeeze gut over fat sausages.
You bark commands like a general, crabby no matter what the outcome.
Finding fault seems to be your new virility.

It is not the tender moments that fuel the long long days.
Your ill humor and harsh demands
raise a spirit in me where before I wavered.
I need not answer back to feel my strength growing day by day.
I can do anything–deal with any bodily fluid, most abuse.
I can take the blanket off and put it back again
a dozen times in as many minutes.

I take NoDoz for the first time since college,
trying to stay awake to drive you to the doctor’s office.
After so many nights with little sleep,
I pound my hand against the wheel to hurt myself awake.

Trying to make you comfortable
has become an impossibility,
and although it breaks my heart,
it does not break my soul.
You are constantly mad at me,
I always on the way to being a little mad at you.
That’s the way we get through this.

When you fall in the shower,
you lie as though crucified,
your body slight now–
Christlike in your suffering
as the water rains down on you.
When I turn it off and reach out to help you,
”Leave it on!” you snarl,
like a dog protecting his bones.
Ten minutes later, you are too weak
from the hot water
to stand on your own.
I put your arms over my shoulders
to carry you on my back,
like a penitent.

What pain feeds your anger these long weeks?
Is it the cancer or the slow hard truth
as your wife becomes your mother
and you, a child–
petulant, demanding,
are borne once more,
this time away from her.


The dVerse Poets prompt is to write a poem on the subject of birth.

32 thoughts on “New Birth

  1. msjadeli

    As painful as it is to read to go through it must have been infinitely more so. Maybe his anger in the end is that he would be gone soon and you would remain, alive. The imagery here is vivid and it is uncomfortable to think of dissecting it beyond that.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Glenn A. Buttkus

    Damn lady, there is a novella’s worth of rich imagery and carefully crafted moments in this. The ending is killer. If it be fiction, it is strong stuff–if personal and real, it’s raw and revealing. I’m disabled these days, and my wife has had to add caregiver to her job description. Your piece hits close to home.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Marilyn Armstrong

    Like seems the wrong thing to say. Touching and also rather frightening. It took me almost 10 minutes to stand up today. I couldn’t get myself on my feet. Then I wonder what I’ll be like in another 10 years. Not a joyful thought.

    Liked by 1 person


    Thanks, for this post Judy, sorry that I am late with my comment. I have been more or less “off line” for over a month now, due to an unexpected hospital visit and getting back my health. However while there I actually got to re-read your “Lessons From a Grief Diary” where I again got to mull over the above Poem once more on page 57-60. Re-reading the book also gave me a slightly different view, as well, because the first time around, I was reading from a different point of view, while my first reading was from MY point of view. Also I had another problem of breaking my connection from your blog, due to trying to get rid of a person who had intruded. Got rid of the whole darn thing along with HIM~! Now maybe I am back.



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