Sheets, walk toward the bed.
Sheets, I command you, tuck!
Blanket, I command you, wrap!
Oh therapist, in your kingdom of the bed,
do you have this tiny luck after your stroke,
to use the most secret powers of the ill?
Can you will someone to bring you hot
chocolate and buttered toast in strips,
the crust cut off? Now that you’re sick,
do you feel you’ll never really get well
as I do, imitating you, seeing beneath the frail
armor of my fingernails, through the quick…
Yet I see a shore.
Hello. I meet you from afar,
me, here in my bedroom with my flu
and unwashed hair. You in the pushbutton bed
they moved into your living room
where I cried
trying to push against why.
Probably the beige couch I would lie on
has gone. Now I talk to you from here,
the lying-down world of my bed
where a tear can leak from the corner of a duct.
Half a century ago, interpreted by grownups,
I was VERY BAD when playing cut-outs,
scissoring past the paper dolls to cut
diamonds in my pajamas. A work of art!
I made a Celtic pattern inherited from yore,
from my family on the other shore.
When a little more convalescent, I filled
a fountain pen and pushed it across full
sentences—my homework on ruled lines.
But Mr. Bradley said it was just an old exercise!
When I returned to school, he let my paper descend
from his tall translucent hand toward the garbage can.
My mother threw out the pajamas.
I was not hurt. I knew from my distant land
of convalescence that she and my teacher
could not really see as I saw, who still carried the land
of illness inside, a cut-out place, all thought illuminated
like skin showing through diamonds cut in flannel.
Convalescence was an eyelet covering:
inside it, I learned more every day.
From your caretaker, I hear you, too,
after your stroke, learn more every day.