The Land of Nod

The night after she returned from the hospital 
the uneven rumbly liquid breathing of one soon  

to go under kept me at the surface of thoughts 
I couldn’t escape. Clonazepam, Lorazepam, 

not even Ambien could pull or sink me. And in the morning, 
sure enough, we couldn’t coax or shake her awake  

except for a few seconds when someone or thing  
wrenched her eyes open and let her answer no 

to every question in a scornful voice we’d never heard before 
before pulling her down to that rocky undertow. 

Through the morning and afternoon every breath, 
a grunt, a rattling that soaked the bedclothes and pillows in sweat. 

Then at 3 pm, she returnedrecognizing her two daughters 
speaking her own name and the name of the president. 

The hospice nurse put a line through the word “Comatose” 
scrawled at the top of her chart and for the next few hours 

a light or absence seemed to emanate from her almost 
emptied irises. No sentences. No speech as the white  

nimbus of hair, thick and lively around her head 
nodded yes to sitting up and getting dressed— 

to sweet potatoes and Jeopardy! as though part of her  
remained in that rheumy underwater place 

that took her breath away and wiped out the syntax  
of explanation and inquiry, leaving only 

no I won’t and certainly not and don’t ever wake me up again

Copyright © 2023 by Lisa Sewell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.