These days I live in double knots,
always in two places, one my sister’s room,
watching for an ending I don’t want to begin.
I take my niece to swimming lessons;
She’s in the Turtle group. Sit poolside
while she paddles blinking in the sun,
breathing in sweetness, chlorinated air.
We return to a borrowed house
where the shades are drawn. Turtle goes
to Grandma. I check on the IV,
feed my sister yogurt with live cultures.
She eats all I offer, then vomits in a bin. The nurse
says, at this stage, she can’t make use of food.
My stubborn sparring partner is renouncing all
her roles: visual artist, tender mother, struggling
wife. She speaks only word salad so we’re learning
a new language, hands and eyes in present tense.
Her skeleton grows eloquent a little more each day,
reveals what I’m afraid, yet curious to know-
What will it take for her to die?
How will it be for me?
When her husband arrives with his guitar,
I go to restaurants, eat burgers, malts, and fries.
It ‘s good to be alive and I will bear the guilt.
Wish I were the type who could flirt up a one night
stand. Awake now to the mysteries in other diners’ lives.
Tonight I sleep on a cot at her bedside
in a room we’ve never shared. Doors I’ve shut
against her open. Her voice draws me
a picture of the unfamiliar land where
she searches for a car. I have no
compass, just relax and let her drive.