"Doing" by Éireann Lorsung

I am filling the pot with water to boil. My mother's feet
are swollen as sausages.
They curl, and her fingers curl, and they don't release.
Her back is full of arthritic fire.

She is the cold one, now; I give up heat to her.
Every night, my brothers ignore her limp
upstairs. She would rather be ignored.

I want to pour the water over my hands, want
them to blister red and white. I want
to forget.

In the Chinese restaurant six years ago
I tilted a pot of tea over the edge of a table, caught
pot and water together in one palm.
This is it, an anointing: heat
becoming balm.

I want my mother
taking care of me. Not her back sliced in half, her hands
crabbed like an old woman's, not psoriasis,
not tumors, not hair falling out all over the house.

Before I knew what death
was like, I would cut my stomach in even lines.
Simetimes I see the razor's stern edge parting my skin
but I can't lift it, can't make the imagined a verb.
I can't pretend it's something
anymore, some glamorous thing to die
like girls in movies. I know what it is:

six prescriptions. The insurance company's warning.
My father holding my mother's hand
where the cracks run deep and bleed of their own accord.

"Doing" from Music for Landing Planes By by Éireann Lorsung. Copyright © 2007 by Éireann Lorsung. Published by Milkweed Editions.