Monday, August 9, 2010

Women who Tend

We had been talking for hours, as if we weren’t seated in this hospital room
as if my father wasn’t in that bed and the sick man on the other side
of the curtain couldn’t hear us.

We talked about work and weekends, paint colors, the Yankees.
We passed around pictures of the new baby.

It was later when the nurse came, in her shockingly white shirt
breaking up our little party that we scattered, jumping up from our seats
nearly tripping over ourselves as if royalty has entered the room.
We collect at the back and sides, staying out of the way.

She bends down by my father’s bedside talking to herself,
not to us and not to him, just talking quietly to herself,
in this menial task of emptying the sack of urine hooked to my father’s bedside.

She places a plastic jug on the floor and tips the bag over
and I listen to the sound of my father’s urine hitting the plastic.

We are quiet now so the sound fills the room.
The tap of it, all pitter patter against the plastic.
It sounds like a tornado at one point, like it will never stop.

We all look away, my mother and my husband and I.
We look up and down, we clear our throats. We avert our eyes.

I feel the thickness and the weight of my own body filling space,
taking the air out of the room. I can smell the sweat of the living,
the metallic taste of it against the white walls.

It is like an offensive thing, all this breathing in and out, this pumping of blood,
the wet jelly of the body my feet clad in sandals snapping against the floor
as I walk out of the room trying not to think about how many times,
I have seen these women in white who tend to the body.

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