Saturday, February 19, 2011

'On Memory & How It Cannot Be Used As Data' by Jen Luévano

You see, the boy drops
onto his bicycle seat &
is gone before I see him

leave just as my grand-
mother left years before
we see her die.

It is this way with the living
who are lived
out & medicine takes them

into death with a heart
beat & some nurses
who administer each pill

to themselves before
putting the patient
to bed.  We all saw

this in the nursing home
as we watched our old
naked woman be untied

by the day manager
who was crying &
apologizing for her staff.

& so much food
on the floor -- just
like my grandmother

to throw down half
a turkey sandwich &
declare she will only eat

it with her mother, who
was my mother.
I can't even eat at Denny's

because the food, urine,
& disinfectant all
have wheelchair marks across them,

too.  We laughed as she re-
arranged furniture
in the night -- such a small

woman!  & that roommate
who shrieked "Now!  Now!"
& we just turned

our bodies against the storm of her
voice, leaning into the stiff rail of our old
woman's bed, hoping

the roommate would have
some family of her own
to write her name in the collars

of housecoats, because those
workers, you know, hate
all of them -- anyone could

see fear leak from employees'
sweaty fingers -- watch
as patient assistants became older

or get in a car wreck and be lodged
into a tight bed beside the woman
who was convinced I was her

granddaughter.  The boy
on the bike was just to get
me here, beyond the un-

answered prayers to the evan-
gelist who promised healing,
beyond hoping for her death

so I could have a family
again.  The boy did ride
past my house in those days, riding

down & up my street
until the last possible light
when he'd get up enough nerve

to look into my front window
just before he'd turn his bike up
the corner street and be gone.

(published in The Expatriate, 1995)

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