For 40 days
after your death I thought about the motion
of your chest. Let me retrace, back to
The morning of:
a slept-through phone call, a sister who never cries
has a wet face, a stranger holds me in my sweat,
as I struggle and turn in the name of all things –
Holy Mother Mary Jesus Father Mother, someone –
I’m out of bed, I say fuck a coffee, and tell my sister, “it’s ok,
get in the car”. I tell the strange man who looks worn
like old jeans, “thank you, it was nice to meet you”,
and leave him in my driveway.
Trying to find parking, I’m confused, I’m thinking,
thinking, all squares are rectangles but not all
rectangles are squares, just find a g-damn spot.
My tires are outside the lines.
Parking for Emergency Room Entry Only
I tell my sister, “let’s just go in”. She doesn’t want to cry.
I tell her, “it’s ok, baby, just wait a little longer”.
We’re forced to push through a revolving door,
as if the circular motion doesn’t mean everything
comes back around. My arms feel like bruised fruit,
woven basket body.
I talk to the old woman at the front desk:
death, death, yes, this way, what’s the last name?
Stray visitors look at us with sad dog eyes
as we tap our feet lightly to the floor like we’re
trying our best to go unnoticed; for some reason
I know they’re thinking we’re too young to be
here and look so sure of it.
Hospital elevators make me want to hold my breath.
I take in air and hold it tight in my cheeks. The door
drags open. Halls stretch and then yawn into sharp
I am holding my sister’s hand, although we
are old enough to vote, and to drink, and to have
a child of our own if we wanted to. But we know
that sadness doesn’t make us younger, and fear
doesn’t make us weak. Although, now, we forget this.
In a large area where shower curtains separate
white walls from white beds from white hair,
I see a bald spot. I walk to it. I see green –
scrubs, bags of fluid, a ventilator. A heaving chest.
It’s the most unnatural, horrible thing, and I get
that out of body feeling, oh no, I will
always remember this moment.
My sister wipes at her cheek, “He’s ok”. He’s ok?
I can’t seem to be quiet enough. Okay is not what
this seems. Okay is human, not machine. I see Poppy,
and then machine, and it doesn’t make sense. The two
don’t make one. I want the tubes out of him, I want him
to breath on his own. He’s so kind, he’s so kind, he’s so kind.
Rectangles are squares but not all, no it’s the other way around.
Get me out of here.
It’s been more than 40 days. It’s November again. Next to
a man I know more than a stranger, but less than someone
I love, I compare the way your chest jolted painfully to the
swaying motion of my own chest and suddenly, the sound
of my heartbeat in my ears. Wonder who gave power to
unconscious things and why hospital beds are a prelude to caskets.
I had hoped I could write it out of me, this thing. The image of you.
I focus on how to lace my breath with someone else’s,
without having to explain
Genevieve Jaser is a student at Southern Connecticut State University
Header Photo Credit: Marcelo Leal