Night & Day


Night 7: Jumbled Tenses, and Family

Emory Neurological ICU

What you’ve forgotten, returns:
+++++you’re not the first
++++++++++in your tribe to cradle

your head in your hands.
+++++You see your father
++++++++++behind the wheel

of his Rambler, steering your mother
+++++to Lenox Hill hospital,
++++++++++where three years later,

you’ll come
+++++to be. But not yet.
++++++++++Now, her brain bleeds.

You hear your godmother:
+++++Helen was not
++++++++++the same after –

her temper would get
+++++the best of her.
++++++++++And you hear

your mother:
+++++The doctor told me no
++++++++++to children.
And here you are:
+++++the product
++++++++++of that doggedness

and that rage. In the mirror
+++++in your mind, you can see
++++++++++too, your face

+++++by that same seething,
++++++++++that same resolve.

And what of your own?
+++++Your kids.
++++++++++Have you willed

them your rage?
+++++Will their brains
++++++++++bleed? Will they?





Day 7: Jumbled Tenses, and Friends

Emory Neurological ICU

It startles me. The blood
pressure cuff when it inflates.

I turn to see who’s grasped
my arm. The touch is tender,

the way you might steer
someone away from a grave.

This happens at least twice a day.
It fascinates me. How the mind

can be tricked, played with,
how it rises to the lure

even when it should know
better. I’ll tell this to Quinn,

when he arrives, jet-lagged,
a sack of calzones in his hand.

I just want you to know,
every time I get a headache

from now on, I’m gonna think
my brain is bleeding. Thanks,

thanks a bunch. We dig into
the calzones – I eat a full meal

for the first time in days.
You look terrible, my friend.

And I’m tired. Who knew
chewing was good cardio,

I say before drifting off.
When I come to, I’m startled

by his snoring from the guest
room back to that house

on Line Street, pre-kids,
pre-wives, where his honking

blew through three walls
after we’d haunted the bars –

washing down free hors d’oeuvres
through Rolling Rocks’ green glass

as first his, then mine, opening lines
arced in a bright flame before

we retreated, nabbing dumplings
and a 12-pack on our way home

to Miami Vice, where Crockett
and Tubbs, our stand-ins, shot

their way out of one episode
after another. How does one

repay this gift twenty-five years
in the making? What currency

is tender enough?


James Wyshynski