Comfort

by Cynthia Neely
The Waters
Honorable Mention, March 2010
Judged by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar


The sheets were pristine,
so clean. Wait, go back
The air so clean yes the air
like a baby’s breaching breath no,

wait. Back further.

Before my pen described a needle.

Still, before a needle stilled
your life. And Mother needed
not to cradle me or beg me

to remember floating on the bay.
Before the needle sought its target,
through belly swell, in amniotic sea.

Stop, wait,

further.

Before your father shaved my head.
Before the wigs I didn’t like.
Before I shopped for scarves instead.

No No No. Before
the drip drip drip,

the cysplat poisoned veins
discreetly positioned pans
the vague white-coated comfort:
You can always have another…

Before the errant cell
Before I would tell them
I chose
me
over you.

Yes, further, further

Before, before, when air was clean,
when I was clean, and wings were filled,
and you still floated on your own private bay.

Before I balanced on reflection’s edge,
and lay quiet on such pristine sheets
with stirruped feet.

Before I harbored sparrows in my breast
and could not speak
for fear of losing those that fluttered darkly
to escape.



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