I am tongue-tied in the hospital,
can’t think what to say to the face above the neck
with the tracheotomy tube. Her lips ask how we are—
her children, grandchildren, great-grandson.
Perhaps I’ve never been a storyteller,
but here in this room, where life is about
blood sugar, oxygen, catheters,
my stories get shorter and shorter. She shrugs in response.
I begin to speak in initials: RN, RT, PMV.
Every day the same words: yogurt, water.
The same tired questions: Did she eat? Is she in pain?
I need color in this space. Fragrance. Tang.
Pine trees, eucalyptus, lavender, lemons.
I need crunchy new words, bites of apples.
Or dark chocolate ones that resonate with cellos.
I want to make something up.
Fabricate. Exaggerate—especially in pink.
Maybe tell her, if she gets off the bed,
if she walks to the window, she’ll see
cherry trees blooming; millions of
blossoms lifting in the breeze,
like a troupe of ballerinas in pink tutus.
Bubbles of Bazooka filling and filling
till—just before they pop—
they freeze into ice cream, scoops of raspberry
or pink peppercorn with pomegranate seeds.
I want to smooth it on her cheeks.
Make her glow again.
But, of course, I just stare out her window
into gray cement walls. Are you hungry? I ask.
The yogurt I feed her is cherry-flavored;
the rash on her body, a rosy pink.
Lori Levy's poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Poetry East, Rattle, Nimrod, and numerous other literary journals in the U.S., England, and Israel. One of her poems was included in a program on BBC Radio 4. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, but "home" has also been Vermont and Israel.