Each drive to and from your bed, I’d hope for miracles:
pungent blister of skin when you tried to sit flowering,
your pain hauled off into oblivion. But during closeness
of our breath and hospital spoon, separateness persisted:
my dexterity, your mouth barely opening for substance,
bronze catheter tube hanging like the memory of your
last sentence to me, “I do love Swiss Miss.” After that,
silence redesigned our friendship. Only your eyebrows
fluttered in response. This was our conversation once
morphine rationed your speech; nurses plotted your dying
on the white board. But I watched, listened, wished your
melody would restart: sassy cello solo in a winter’s fist.
Instead, your life’s cadence: eyelids disputing their own
weight, gurgled flower spilling lightly around your mouth.
From pant loops, my father’s belt bent in half,
a loud leather jaw quickly snapped.
My mother’s grief each time she
gave her girls to the world.
I inhale memory, exhale long tendrils that mount air.
My lungs taste this meandering plague
steal a cloud pressed against the oval night.
Inside me, a stone thrown
through the noise of my father.
When I was his young daughter, silence was not
praying. Silence was a difficult biting of the
tongue before split. But I chose speech
because I never followed.
Following meant I was lost.
And my mouth would not muzzle
a girl’s belief in herself.
Somehow my two sisters and I forget differently.
Only an orange carpet bright in the peripheral mind
(the part of memory that doesn’t quite rewind),
appears in the same house on the same street.
Why did our father snap his belt first?
A warning before
the grenades went off,
whirl in his head?
My body taught itself how to react: avoid thunder in the backyard
or quick removal of synthetic gloves. I think there’s
a novena meant for this: a daughter’s fear of
certain sounds all these years later.
But my voice persisted for most of his life, even as he lay
next to the months of cancer that sucked
his body to bones.
His suffering hurt me more than his fathering.
The belt’s snap only a faint beat of percussion as I held him
with his foot half gone, rosary beads in his
leathered hands numb to the cold sting
of each black stone.
Theresa Senato Edwards has written two full-length poetry books—Voices Through Skin (Sibling Rivalry Press), and Painting Czeslawa Kwoka ~ Honoring Children of the Holocaust (unbound CONTENT), an award-winning collaboration with Painter Lori Schreiner—and two poetry chapbooks: Green (Finishing Line Press and Another New Calligraphy) and The Music of Hands (Seven CirclePress, web book edition; self published, print edition). Excerpts from her newest manuscript entitled, “Wing Bones,” can be found in Thrush Poetry Journal, Coldfront This Morning, Stirring, Gargoyle Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, Amethyst Arsenic, Bop Dead City, UCity Review, and elsewhere. Edwards was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, received a writing residency from Drop Forge & Tool, and is Editor-in-Chief of The American Poetry Journal. Her webiste: tsenatoedwards.wix.com/tsenatoedwards