At Rosh Hashanah Services
I felt space open between yesterday
and today. I sat in the last pew. And
I couldn’t see Cantor Lydia’s face.
All I saw was a blur. As if she too
stood outside time. When I was so sick
in ‘09 it seemed someone knocked
a hole in Now and I might leak out.
So close I could stick my arm through.
I thought it might be a blessing to lose
my face, release it like an injured bird
into the Baltimore sky.
Crows roosted in the tulip trees
outside the hospital window, a blur
of black wings.
Father’s hair never turns gray.
The back grows bald
and his forehead nibbles
his hairline away. I wonder
if he has rubbed it off lying
all those days in the ICU.
His thoughts bubble
out of control, his brain
goes incandescent with fantasy.
How graciously he greets me.
He thinks he’s lounging
in the American Embassy in Vilnius.
The next day he announces
he’s leaving and pulls off his tubes.
He stands up and falls on his head.
Blood leaks in his brain and
the bubble goes dark.
Mother lives two more years
almost to the day. She eats alone,
dines on cottage cheese
and prunes, mislays
her hearing aid.
Her neighbor invites
her to the symphony,
but she can’t hear the melody.
Lung cancer reels her in,
delivers her to the hospice wing.
Her heart rebels, refuses to stop.
Radiation fails to diminish
her hair. Her chest tightens,
her breath slows.
Silver waves fall over her shoulder
and soften her hospital gown.
I finger-comb her curls.
Poems reprinted from Notes from the Dry Country (Mayapple Press, 2019) with permission of the author.
Ellen Aronofsky Cole is the author of Notes from the Dry Country (Mayapple Press, 2019), and the chapbook Prognosis (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in The Bellevue Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Washington Post Magazine. Her article “My Life as a (Fake) Patient,” was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Cole lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband Brian and her parrot, Haiku.