We stopped trying to keep you entertained and contained,
granted you full access to the entire pre-op area,
pretended not to notice when you vaulted onto one of the nurse’s chairs and wildly spun,
knocking her neat pile of charts to the floor as you whirled a cyclone through the room.

Soggy with hungry, tired tears and anguished sweat,
your strawberry blonde curls matted to your head
as anesthesia and food don’t mix,
we waited for hours for your turn in the OR.

This specific procedure not remembered
in the profusion of similar days spent together
since you were a hatchling sheltering in my arms,
the interminable morning itself remains vivid.

A bright sun cut into the windows at Hopkins,
heating the room and our tempers,
aggravation sharp as a sterile scalpel carving at our skin
for making a child sit so long with only fear as breakfast.

We’d played with your battered, cloth doll,
inserting IVs and taping them down securely with rolls of surgical tape,
placed a plastic mask over her imperfectly drawn nose and mouth
so she could dreamlessly sleep through the pending breach.

Assured we’d be there with kisses waiting when she awoke,
your insensible toy had been shoved aside
as you wailed for goldfish crackers and air that didn’t smell like beta-dine,
struck out at us with fermented anger for treating you so cruelly.

We were now broken, as well as you;
incapable of bringing you relief from fear and fresh pain,
we let you run and scream and climb and breed bedlam
until you had vanquished the attending nurses.

Telephone gripped in a fist so tight it might splinter the hard plastic,
the woman, dressed in teddy bear dotted scrubs, begged for deliverance;
exasperated that you had disrupted her placid day, with us as ardent conspirators,
she condemned us all to finishing the bloody business that had us waking before dawn

to journey again to Hades
while fervently guarding the fare we knew was essential
for returning every piece of us

© Julie Ayers
April 2012 – NaPoWriMo 22

“Waiting” by Julie Ayers


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