Dear Reader, it wouldn’t be a lie if you said poetry was a cover
for my powerlessness, here, on this plane
having ticked off another day waiting for her diagnosis to rise.
As the air pressure picks up, I feel the straight road
curved by darkness, where the curve is a human limit,
where the second verb is mean, the second verb is to blind.
On the other line, my mother sits on her bed
after a terrible infection. Her voice like a wave
breaking through the receiver, when she tells me
that unlike her I revel in the inconclusivity of the body.
At the end of the line, I know my mother
accumulates organ-shaped pillows after surgery.
First a heart, then lungs.
The lung pillow is a fleshy-pink. The heart
pillow, a child-drawn metaphor. Both help her expectorate
the costs to the softer places of her body.
After each procedure they make her cross,
the weight of the arm comes down. These souvenirs
of miraculous stuffing other patients on the transplant floor covet,
the way one might long for a paper sack doll made by hand.
Though the stuffing is just wood shavings, one lies
with the doll tight at the crick of an elbow at night.

Copyright © 2020 by April Freely. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.