Keep an eye on the death cart, they say.
Laughing behind me.
Nurses and doctors.
Is it the shape of my head, a turnip,
Chin mashed from steering wheel,
Gay blue volunteer vest?
You swoop in, but silently, like an owl, to replace.
This is a game to them, tongues poking cheeks.
The proper name is ‘Courtesy Cart,’ doily-disguised metal like morgue slab.
Chock full of goodies for family of dying.
Cold and hot water coffee.
Stunted cans generic cola ginger ale.
Baskets of tea bags crackers cookies.
Stock surrounds me.
Doilies red blue green like kid’s birthday.
Pamphlet in hand, stages of grief.
This, they say, pertains to the cart.
This woman in the bed, they say, young mother head injury, result of drunk drivers like me.
Are they allowed to say it?
The husband says, No. She’ll be fine.
Little girl says, Mommy will be up soon and starving. All these cookies. Coffee will wake her.
Older boy opens Oreo packet.
Girl screams no and puts it back.
I replace it with new. All sealed again and waiting.
Husband with giant fists
Crushes cracker packs,
Crumbs drizzle to floor, sheets.
Boy stomps Oreos, grinds with sneaker.
Girl makes geysers of shaken soda, popped creamers.
Ice cubes thrown like hail.
Husband yells at cloud bank. Why her?
Housekeeper is invisible without fuss.
In her wake I bear refills, no eye contact.
Fingers dip water pitcher, holy water crosses on mother’s forehead.
Dear God, says girl, if you wake her up I will never yell or kick forever.
Dear God, says boy, bring her back and no frogs will come.
Husband silent, eyes closed, asks for what?
They sleep on her sheets, hand in hand, a circle.
Only sound the breathing machine. Chests in synchrony, mine as well.
Day four, says nurse to me, poking. Go home.
Want to see it through.
You haven’t eaten.
I won’t. But soon.
Bruised lids flutter awake, something born.
Not the mother.
Hands reach for the cart, suddenly ravenous.
What has dawned before daybreak?
I barely keep the nourishment flowing.
Mother’s face sunken overnight, opposite the way they fill.
They wave the cart away, when doctors come.
No longer require my services, a decision made.
Other family hustles in, blocks my view.
I couldn’t see my mother die, either.
They wouldn’t let me in.
Too traumatic for a child, they said.
I didn’t get to smash cookies or throw ice.
I am still on step two.
Why I hate myself and drink,
And steer into trees.
I wheel it to the kitchen,
Pour leftover coffee and drink it.
Sleep is something of the past.
I toss the doilies and wipe the metal.
It’s not required but I refill the cart,
Make perfect stacks of crackers, like bricks.
A tower of creamers.
I create something of a fortress,
The steel decanters turrets
From where death is observed,
And held at bay.
Photo Source: RENWL