Have you ever been waiting in line behind a guy
You think has a toupee on his head?
And while waiting for a really long time in that line
That doesn’t seem to be moving forward,
You wonder what he looked like with his real hair
It must have been darker, the shade that
Still lingers above his ears, not having abandoned him
Would you start to imagine him adjusting it carefully
Thinking it made him look younger, better
Than if he was partially bald, or shaved it off completely?
Does he take it off, setting it on his nightstand
Or keep it on in case his wife comes to bed feeling amorous?
Does he fret over every windy weather report
Knowing he will have to hold onto it like others do a hat?
It keeps my mind busy, this staring at his artificial hair
And I find myself as you probably would too
Feeling compassion for this total stranger and his whys
That compelled him to cover up what changed
Sometimes so much more than simple recessive genetics
Leading all of us to fix what shouldn’t need to be
It is then, I slowly reach up and touch it lightly with love
We are both waiting, quietly observing
She calm, her coat zipped right to the top
Her pink suede boots with satin ribbon laces, dangle
Where is the aunt, her mom, maybe dad, today
The secretaries try the numbers, no answers
One mentions the books she can look at
Does she want to unzip her coat, another asks
You look uncomfortable with it up so high
No, it isn’t hurting me, see? Her chin held high
While she waits sweetly, her blonde curly hair
A wild frame for her little angelic face that stares
Straight ahead, what thoughts behind still eyes
Picking up a book she only holds its sleeve out
Where are the pictures she wonders aloud, not
To me specifically, just for anyone, she is now
Concerned about where they might be,
The people who love her, I touch the book
Explaining it is kept nice by that outside cover
She leafs uncomfortably through its pages
The phone rings, She’s right here, is the response
The secretary indicates, dad is out in the parking lot
Come on, says the secretary, I will walk you out to him
She doesn’t move. She stares ahead at the window
I see him now, too, a young dad smiling, amiable
They say, is that your daddy,
When he comes through the office door She turns her head, hesitates
Taking a big long look, she nods jumping off the chair
She is the sweetest little thing, I tell him
The secretary says, yes, I could take her home with me
Our reminders to her of her specialness, and to dad
Please don’t forget her someday when there is no
Warm office, lovely secretaries, and a mom who waits
They were standing in the kitchen.
Why is it serious family events
always reveal themselves in our kitchens?
He had a large lump on his neck.
My dad feeling it, for my mom
Agreeing, it seemed awfully big
For a swollen lymph gland
It wasn’t mumps.
Mumps didn’t look like that.
This, the only time I saw
My daddy look scared
Our mom lying face down
On her bed sobbing.
Bad news I heard mom tell
My aunt Alice on the phone
My brother, cancer, he would
Have to go away to get better
Their only hope.
Brett would need surgery.
My parents needed
To be with him
I didn’t realize then
The big long zipper
On my brothers chest
Could have killed him.
How did he get through that?
Driving up in the
Light blue Buick singing
That’s the Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
Tim’s favorite song.
Brett would come down to see us,
I think it was the lobby.
We drove the 90 minutes
Back in the dark
Sunday nights; him alone, us
Squeezed into the back seat.
Not knowing really
What was happening
He couldn’t come with us, yet
We other five cared for by
My mom’s sisters, brothers.
Adopted for weeks at a time.
Alice made me eat my vegetables.
She made me stop
Sucking my finger, by my side
At my second first communion
She makes sure a person
Knows they aren’t alone.
Years later when he got sick again
I would look at him
In that hospital bed
Fighting for another day
I understood how scared
At 13 he must have been
I couldn’t bare him
To be alone this time.
He told me how he hated
When he was left alone
Back then because
Five other kids were home
He needed us then
Now he deserves better
Than what we can do
Even when sometimes
The need to help was too much.
His wife always at his side
Until morning came
To adjust his breathing mask
Keeping track of so much
Informing of the details
No one else remembers
In a hospital, but
Mostly, like Alice, so he knew
He wasn’t alone
We didn’t stop at the lobby
This time, he didn’t come home
I miss my sweet big brother
Take everything off down to your waist please
Put on this gown with open side to the front
When you are ready we can get started
How’s the weather? Is it still snowing?
Only a minute to get the films ready
Let’s do the right first, lay it up here,
Relax your shoulder, a step forward
Head back, some pressure, one sec
Hold your breath, relax while I
Check the view, Ok, now left side
Same thing, lean in, little more now
She doesn’t remember me, last year
Needed more views, dense breast tissue
Doesn’t mean anything, this happens a lot
She has said, and done this thousands of times
Does her voice change with a view of bad news
Does she see it, often before the radiologist
The news we all fear while we both stare
No movement, small talk distracting us
I wait, in a one-sided hug while intimate
Photos of me appear across her screen
You can wait out there, over to the left
The radiologist reads them right away
I think of all the others before me
All the women she has seen, heard
News of a journey to wait in the next room
While the doctor comes down to talk to her
Was there someone she wanted to call first
Another woman, older, appears to be reading
From a Kindle, I politely pretend to watch the tv,
My x-ray tech is back telling me they are clear and I
Can change back into my clothes, then I am free to go
Thick rope woven
A mariner’s knot
Around my thoughts
To the bottom
My hull of hope
Lying in wait
Soon from within
Still in the distance
Not lost just yet
Fury will descend
In waves of strength
Freeing from the depths
My sunken treasure