Her Body Like a Lantern Next to Me
There's this movie I am watching: my love's belly almost five months pregnant with cancer, more like a little rock wall piled and fitted inside her than some prenatal rounding. Over there's her face near the frying pan she's bent over, but there's no water in the pan, and so, no reflection. No pool where I might gather such a thing as a face, or sew it there on a tablet made of water. To have and to haul it away, sometimes dipping into her in the next room that waits for me. • I am old at this. I am stretching the wick again into my throat when the flame burns down. She's splashing in the tub and singing, I love him very much, though I'm old and tired and cancerous. It's spring and now she's stopping traffic, lifting one of her painted turtles across the road. Someone's honking, pumping one arm out the window, cheering her on. She falls then like there's a house on her back, hides her head in the bank grass and vomits into the ditch. • She keeps her radioactive linen, Bowl, and spoon separate. For seven days we sleep in different rooms. Over there's the toilet she's been heaving her roots into. One time I heard her through the door make a toast to it, Here's to you, toilet bowl. There's nothing poetic about this. I have one oar that hangs from our bedroom window, and I am rowing our hut in the same desperate circle. • I warm her tea then spread cream cheese over her bagel, and we lie together like two guitars, A rose like a screw in each of our mouths. There's that liquid river of story that sometimes sweeps us away from all this, into the ha ha and the tender. At night the streetlights buzz on again with the stars, and the horses in the field swat their tails like we will go on forever. • I'm at my desk herding some lost language when I notice how quiet she has been. Twice I call her name and wait after my voice has lost its legs and she does not ring back. Dude, I'm still here, she says at last then the sound of her stretching her branches, and from them the rain falling thick through our house. I'm racing to place pots and pans everywhere. Bottle her in super canning jars. For seventeen years, I've lined the shelves of our root cellar with them. One drop for each jar. I'll need them for later.
From We Bed Down Into Water by John Rybicki. Copyright © 2008 by John Rybicki. Used by permission of Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.