Friday, March 25, 2016

Two Poems by Lucia Cordell Getsi

Intensive Care

A young resident walks me past my fear
to a small office and tells me to wait. I hear

nothing but the blood in my ears. Whenever I’ve needed
to prepare for something I cannot imagine, I’m led

to a small room like this, just down a hall
to the right, or left, sterile, functional

for waiting, then for hearing news. A phone blinks
its silent buttons, blue, red, pink,

my eye stick on the blue, the immaculate desk,
the chair where her father huddles, risking

his manhood to weep, to reach for my hand with hands
that fall like birds through trees, chin to chest to arm to land

on his knees, then dart back up to his face. I think I know
the next step like a memory, sorrow

pulling like an undertow to the central sea
of loss, emptying farther still into pools of grief

where I’ve buried my most beloved. Except this child
who keeps swimming out like a spirit called

back to the living, who has heard the songs of the dead
and hums them softly to me, under her breath.

I’ve heard that singing before, a breath
turned wrong side out, the rattle of death

in her lungs this morning.
                                                        I am called.
But nothing prepares me for what I see, my child

In her body of pain, hooked to machines. Grief
comes up like floodwater. Her body floats on a sea

of air that is her bed, a force field of sorrow
that pulls me to her side. I touch pain I know

I have never felt, move into a new land
of nightmare. She is so still. Only one hand

moves, fingers oscillate like water plants risking
the air. Machines line the desks,

the floor, the walls, confirm the deep pink
of her skin in rapidly ascending numbers. One eye blinks.

Then again. This must be language, a purely functional
spelling of speech. H-O-T. I sprint down the hall

for bags of ice, my breath swings like lead
in my chest. In seconds I’m the focus of need

so great I’ve forgotten any world but this one here.
I -L-O-V-E -Y-O-U, we spell. Even the alphabet tenses with fear.


You know marrow is deep, the most
inward trail, beneath the wedged
incision in your hip, past
flesh, the waste of muscle, all
connectives, through bone
the surgeon’s screw begins
the twisting dig

Elephants in their private
ritual lift the bones
of kin, the trunks swing
rhythms old as stones
and thunderous as jungle
rain, they carry remains
of family inward, from

You are turned to me, buried
in my arms. I hold your bones
and smooth your hair, my face
a mouth to kiss you, whisper
how gracefully elephants sway
toward the interior. The screw
grinds through your backbone, marrow
reddens in the light
                       and nothing kills
your pain, I cannot carry
you inside, your taut limbs, ivory
as petrified skin, slender
tusks, they tuck like family
in the vault
of my terrified embrace

Lucia Cordell Getsi has published four books of poetry: Teeth Mother Letters, Moonsquilt, 1984, 1993; Bottleships: for Daughters, Aquila, 1986; No One Taught This Filly to Dance, Pikestaff, 1989; Intensive Care, New Rivers Press, 1992.

Her poems have been published in such periodicals as The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Tamaqua, Mississippi Valley Review, The Laurel Review, Whetstone, Benchmark Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Southern California Anthology, Nimrod: Awards IX, and many others.

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