[personal profile] unearthingbone

p.s. might be triggering around death / substance (ab)use / bodies after death / blood / broken bones.

three and a half deaths

1. the spin


the witnesses would say later
that it was one of the greatest
escapes,

one of the most fantastic capers,

died doing what he loved,

the way the shoulders
pitched tents of red
motor-oil slickness,
salted by windshield glass,
the way the
scapula grew wings,
rolled die bets against
the skin,
airlifted the tiny
sliver gap between
the neck and spine
to let breaths
escape from
every pore they
could find. you'd think
the more the air exhaled
the better,
but sometimes i guess,
i guess
that if you let too much out
maybe
there isn't anything left.


2. holiday inn


we were eating the free breakfast
in the lobby, the great escape
from spinning distance between us.
an adventure, you said,
a getaway. i caked a mountain of salt
on the dried yellow eggs,
stung the pores on my tongue
like i imagine the way you said
heroin feels. i think about that all the time:
what it feels like, like you said,
to feel every pore on your body
in sharp focus as if in the crosshairs
of something. every pore screaming.
when i look at you sniffing
the sugary cranberry juice
like a bloodhound, i feel
like there are crosshairs on my
forehead, on my shoulders,
on my back, neatly woven
into the grill of pubic hair.
someone's shooting. shooting up,
shooting at, shooting into.

3. the waiting room

"bleeding into the brain," you said.
"i have to go," you said. "it's only
a matter of time. hours."
i could taste the death
that was on your breath like booze,
the inevitable destruction of
everyone's lives waiting to happen. you drove
two hours to the boston
medical center, waiting
for the blood to, you explained,
drown the heart beating.
drown the lungs.
waiting for a body
completely submerged
on dry land to drown
from the inside. i waited
for you a hundred miles
away, remembering so many
times that i have been
waiting, miles away,
to understand, to see.

4. three and a half deaths


ten years ago this february,
my father, grey and thin,
weakly paperclipped
on top of his old body,
cried one single tear when
dale earnhardt, his favorite nascar driver,
died during the indy 500. spun his car into
the wall, across the track, cracked his spine
from his neck. matter-of-fact, that tear,
slid down my father's grey face without leaving
a trackmark behind. later, he would say,
"at least he died doing what he loved."
my father has cried
three other times in my life:
once, when i was 8,
at the end of dances with wolves,
when the white hound places his paws
upon the silver walker and they dance,
slow, lilting.
once, in 1997, when my older brother
said he was never coming back
as my father's cells
turned black from radiation.
and finally, in the late fall
of 2003, when my dad
drove the blue buick
over jesse, the family cockerspaniel,
in the driveway.
i saw my father stand in the window
of the living room, gazing
like a king over his country,
but his fists were in his eyes,
rubbing as if they were full of salt.
"my god," he said,
like i wasn't there in the room,
clutching the term paper
i was writing on notebook papers.
"he always greets me
when i come into the driveway.
i should have known.
i should have seen him.
i should have waited."
then he turned from the window
and walked away from the broken-necked
dog cradled in my 12-year-old sister's
arms, pushing out the last breath
in his lungs through his drying
black nose.
"my god," i heard him say
down the hallway.
"my god."

5. the fourth death


i am still waiting for my father to die.
he is 63 years old
and has been half-dead
since vietnam,
where the sergeant
slammed his index finger
into the barrel of the gun
until it was so swollen
it wouldn't come back out.
my father remembers
the helicopter crashing,
the heat of the fire
peeling at the little black hairs on his arm,
but he doesn't remember walking
away from the flames. he doesn't remember
how he got away, the great escape.
i am still waiting for my mother to call three times
in a row when i don't pick up,
which she does all the time and i have told her
that i hate it,
but this time, to listen to the voicemail
and find either her frantic voice
escaping between sobs. "your father--
your father is--"
or to find the tranquil acceptance
of fifteen years of waiting
for death to catch up,
the "your father died this morning. please
call."
or maybe she would leave
no message at all.
maybe there would be nothing.
maybe i wouldn't call her back
until the next day, my father
laying on life support in some
hospital in boston,
maybe the same hospital
where i visited him and
his compromised immune system
in 1997, where i put on a blue
johnny and gloves and a mask
that directed my breath
into a fog across my glasses.
when i call back the next day i imagine
my mother, chewing on
a milano cookie,
would say,
"your father is in the hospital.
come home."
a hundred miles away,
waiting, my father waiting,
waiting
for me to call back
so he could finally
die all the way.

7. to make her look like she was sleeping

when my great aunt died when i was five,
my mother guided me up to the open coffin to say goodbye
before any mourners came in. i remember her skin
looked like wax.
more toward adulthood, my mother would tell me that
she wanted me to say goodbye but without
having to see the full weight of grief.
when my great aunt died,
i was at the neighbor's house next door, playing with red and blue
wooden blocks with their three-year-old daughter.
i have always missed the moment of death by inches.
when i came home, the hospital bed
in the living room was gone. my aunt was gone.
"i shut her eyes," my mom said to my father in front of me.
"why did you shut her eyes?" i asked, tiny and unsure.
"to make her look like she was sleeping," my
mother said. "you have to do that
when people die. they can't shut their own
eyes." i know now that this conversation
was grieving, that its odd juxtaposition is
about the crushing numbness of grief.
i didn't wonder until years later
where the hospital bed and body
had gone, only understood that shut eyes
maybe meant that death
disappeared, that
you wouldn't have to see the
absence of light reflected.

8. the waiting room

i imagine you sitting,
watching the beeps get
louder and more frantic,
the small waves
get smaller, extinguish, go flat
like eyes dulled by death. the only thing
you can focus on is the illustration
of death on the monitor.
maybe you are
silent, head bowed
like the body's shoulder
is an altar.
i don't even know what the pain
of this sudden loss looks like, this
weight that i can only imagine is crushing.
childlike, i refuse to go to funerals
because i cannot bear the weight of grief,
refuse to imagine the moment
in which you must face that the body
is just the body.
i will feel the veil of grief
move around my heart like
a fishing net. it's not even
my grief to feel. i am a stealer of grief,
a thief: i steal numbness from others
to justify my own. i've missed
every moment of grief by inches.
i've missed everything, everything. everything.
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unearthingbone

February 2012

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