—for my mother
No, I didn’t remember that:
sitting on the toilet while you
pushed the tube back into my gut,
my best friend watching from the door.
We’d been playing caterpillar
house all morning. I didn’t cry.
Then the ride: two hours, black stitches
ripping around the gape in my
belly, hot July blowing by,
the countryside wet as a wound.
I didn’t remember your voice
calm beside the bathtub, your hands
steady as you slipped me back to-
gether, your lip tucked determined
under teeth. Just hold still, Angie.
Just hold still, baby. We’ll get it.
What I remembered were doctors’
hands in a cold room white with walls,
their voices, how did this happen
and what were you doing to make
this happen. And my reply was
something about caterpillar
house. And they never asked how it
was played or what my best friend’s name
was or if it hurt when the tube
pulled out of me. They didn’t say
they were sorry I was coming
undone or sorry I hadn’t
swum all summer because of how
they’d opened me. I remembered
lying still while they swabbed me down,
the betadine scared me until
I realized it wasn’t blood.
And one doctor asked another
how was your vacation and what
was the coral like down that way.
I had read about coral reefs
but had never seen one, and while
the tube was being stitched back in
safe I was thinking that maybe
someday you and I could swim out
to blue water and those fish with
the airy cheeks fat as dumplings.
And I remembered thinking that
I’d like to find the reef first with
my body, to feel salt on my
skin and minnows swimming there, warm.
And when you surfaced, we wouldn’t
speak, we’d shimmer. You’d laugh and catch
something, first one fish, then hundreds,
in your hands, and then you’d let go.