Vessel

her eyes were unbearable to look at across the kitchen table.

the slick wooden surface was streaked with cleaner

and littered with crumbs.

the placemats had never been washed.

her cancer came at an inconvenient time.

i had a date that night

with the latest boy i was loving in place of myself.

her shoulders sagged

her chest concaved

from years

years

(a lifetime perhaps)

of love being given

and taken away.

i soothed the tears choking her words

by yelling loudly

(so i could only hear the sound of

my own voice).

i remembered being young

my head reaching the waistband perhaps

of her jordache jeans.

i was breathing in the smell

of fresh meat and

shivering from the reliable chill

of the fluorescent supermarket.

a spoiled pout curled my face

(perfected at such a young age)

and the wire cart came to

an abrupt stop.

she grabbed my cheeks

roughly and suddenly

between the fingers of one hand

so that my teeth were hard and

brutal

against my pink skin

my lips now pouting

and protruding beyond my control.

anger is all i remember

clouding her face.

no words on her part

or action on mine

come to mind.

i know now that she was very sad.

her spirit was breaking.

grocery shopping was the one

miserable reason

on that day

that her pajamas hit the floor

and the key turned in the buick.

even on that day

(probably a saturday)

cells were attacking cells.

her mind was practicing tricks

perfecting depression

keeping her distracted.

her husband

was avoiding the makings

of love

snoring on the couch for

months.

the heart can be

quite

the scene stealer

when the brain is numb

and the body is silent.

it’s amazing how disconnected

the organs can be from

their vessel.

the cancer came at an inconvenient time.

i was very tired.

i did not have much strength to

feel.

(hand to mouth inhale hand to mouth swallow)

i knew that the cancer was

unique.

it was the noncommittal kind.

the kind that moms get.

the kind that does not kill.

she tried the chemo diet

and got down

to a size 8.

i used the orange scissors

that we used to open bags of

frozen broccoli

to remove the tufts of hair

from her head.

collect them in my fist.

disposal.

we laughed at the agony.

i saw recently her wig framing the

plastic head on her bedroom dresser.

i never liked her with bangs.

for months

i did circles in the hospital parking garage.

the pastel waiting room had a coffee machine.

hot water dripped and mixed with

cappuccino powder.

poison dripped from a plastic sack

into her tired bleeding veins

her arms the color of rotten berries.

i was stoned everyday by 10am.

i often imagined her funeral.

her red faced husband would come in a suit.

his eyes cloaked with a

5 o’clock mist.

he would call me kiddo

and he would not cry.

the place would be fucking packed.

her closet friends would wear pink.

i would weep because they all knew her

better than me.

my black pantyhose would rip

and I would wrench them off in the Buick’s backseat

my bruised legs revealed.

how inconvenient.