Split wide open, midline peeled back,
Fluids pool in the distal portion.
She lies flat,
A series of tubes to gravity,
Hairless from chemo.
I irrigate, flushing sanguineous ponds
From the belly of her wound.
She is sleeping.
Lashless, thin like phyllo dough,
Her eyelids make sleeping movements,
Her wide Dutch features still.
She is very young.
It is spring.
They are standing on a hill overlooking the lake.
He tells her she is lovely.
She smiles full-toothed--
Cheeks flushed, eyes effulgent, she breaks into a run.
I collect her fluids in a graduated cylinder,
Adjust the dressings, check the tubes.
Reaching for the bedlight, I touch
Her smooth skull, trace the bone
Down her cheekline.
Sixty years of expressions accepts
My brief passage.
"Katherine, you are beautiful," I tell her,
"Yes," she replies--
in the language of silence.
Lise Kunkel, 45,
is a mother, wife, registered nurse & volunteer coordinator for Compassionate
Care in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. She has been reading
and writing poetry off and on for 30 years.