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I still want to believe I can find some way to fix you. That if I go back to the beginning— retrace the disaster with the savant detective’s obsession, I could uncover a cure—the smartest expert, some successful drug. Better yet, I want the pediatrician to give you a different diagnosis. I want to go back to the walk home past restaurants and playgrounds, autumnal light catching all the auburn in your hair. I want to go back to the moment your father left us outside the cafe, consider handing you to him— all forty-seven pounds of you in your gingham pants and hot pink cardigan— Dalmatians decorating the little pockets—and walk away without looking back. But I would never have left and I won’t now. One way or another, you will be the end of me— inadvertent brute force, vector of virus, constant caretaking, your heavy body forcing my remission’s abrupt end. I know what’s waiting— as certain as cloth hung to hold my scarred neck. I will not walk away. The moment the nurse pressed your splotched body into my arms, your needs fixed my fate. Constantly confused, your jagged voice requests Christmas songs all spring. You shove words of grace into my dry throat and I sing. I don’t need a bottle of pills, white as sleep, to silence me. Every ersatz saint knows endless sacrifice is suicide. For twenty years, I have been disappearing. Touch me; I am not even here.
Copyright 2023 from If Some God Shakes Your House (Four Way, 2023).
Jennifer Franklin’s collections include No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). She lives with her husband and daughter in New York City.
Stunning fab poem
or another, you will
be the end of me—
inadvertent brute force,
vector of virus” — ohhh.
Thanks, Laure-Anne. Raw passion expressed in beautiful language…
To the author – This worked so well, I was jarred by your picture (still in the mood of the poem).
Thanks, I felt the same way about the poem.
Jennifer What a superb poem this morning!
We are all disappearing—it comes to one slowly. I’m amazed so much remains of the world. I suppose that’s how it works.
Lovely and sad, like all good writing.
Thanks, Sean. Yes, this is an elegant lament for an ill child. Very moving.