That Day

How did we look that day?
Me slouched in green vinyl chair.
My husband, unknown to you,
straight-backed against a cool wall.
Noah curled up asleep like a tight
rosebud on my chest. How did he
at three fold up so tiny?

How did we look that day?
In dim lights and silence.
You all entering quietly, heads down,
paying your respects to the dream
of a safe and predictable life
for us and our son
that died yet again that day.

You hugged,
hushed assurances,
eyes glossed with tears
and too much knowledge.

How did we look that day?
Tucked behind a curtain
with metal rings that scratched
on metal rod when opened.
Me in my husband’s over-shirt
and last night’s make-up. Blue
circles under my eyes, sleep
corrupted by what we believed
was only the flu. We who stunk
of the sour-sweet smell
of our son’s sick body
and of our own fear.

How did we look that day
to the emergency technician
who arrived at our hotel room,
with turban and soft manner,
who took Noah’s vitals, tried
to insert a long needle
into our son’s pale foot
while he lay stiff as dead cats,
familiar to this farm girl.

How did we look that day
to the nervous
intern? To the distant doctor.
To the hotel staff who hovered,
left an ugly stuffed monkey
on the bed of our room
while we were at the hospital.

How did we look that day?
To your young daughters
who walked in behind you,
both shy and brave, who joined
our small cadre of watchers,
waiting for Noah to be strong
enough to walk, to leave.
Those two girls, old for their years,
because they have seen
too much, have blanketed other boys,
their brothers, who have seized,
with the calm ordinariness
of their presence.
(Mom, can we watch tv?)
Those beautiful girls who held
the hands of my thin-legged boy,
in draped hospital gown, as he
tremulously walked the halls,
IV pole trailing behind them
Like a chaperone.

How did we look that day?
To you whom we traveled
the country to meet, only to find
ourselves in a hospital,
being ourselves visited
by the finicky phantom
of seizures. The irony
is bittersweet, because I searched
you out, my friends, for just this,
to sit vigil with me
as my son survives seizures
that sneak up on him
just before a fever rises,
that threaten, like the tide,
to sink the fragile ship
we’ve only just put to water.

Only you know how we looked that day.
Because we looked too much like you.

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