Ellen Doré Watson
Morning radio chides a woman for wanting her dead
hand cut off. Morning sidewalk displays
a frayed robin on its side, oh still-breathing eye-blink.
The robin rights itself, wobbles, lists left, I
walk away. All day I scrap with money and machines,
time trumping words, while knots needle softly
into deep aches—the forgotten body first peeking
out, then chewing at the doorjamb, a dog who
just wants to be owned. That dusty robin was a heap
of trying. The woman, too, begging for the knife,
certain it was time to cut the ballast free. Conventional
but brave, my mother had no chance to choose.
Before she knew it, she was a pale turnip withering
on the board. It made no sense to press soil gently
around her and water, but we did. Evening radio reminds me
what I’m hankering to eat and a wispy voice wonders
Doesn’t the body deserve its rest? (People make fusses to make
hay.) A surgeon retorts: brain dead donors are put on—
not life but—organ support, and briefly. The soul is free to go.
I order that dish with the ground chicken and lettuce
leaves, extra hoisin. I take the doc’s side, whether or not
we have a soul. Fund-raising is a little like barn-raising,
says the next host as I take a long look at the bridge so close
to breaking that within the week the long way around
will crowd my days like a deadline. I pick up the takeout, head
home to do my taxes and despair of time. The river
glitters. I try to say thanks every chance I get. I vow to wash
my hair, think: the robin must be a goner by now. Between
the trees naked fields stake their claim, blackbirds glean. Dusk
is a half-open door into the dozen dialects of memory.
It’s time to turn off the radio. My garage opens at the flick
of a switch, thanks to my father, insister, installer.
Please god may his dog outlive him. For once the restaurant
remembered the hoisin, though there are never enough
lettuce boats. I lower them gently onto the flat blue sea of my plate.