Prayer shawls, paper flowers,
a purple rosary. We built an altar
on the hospital room table.

Butterflied like a fish,
she died and did not die,
rose again each time metal
unfolded her flesh.

I slept in fits as she became a deity.
As doctors transformed her.

In a dream, I saw her vivisected and hovering
above the plastic-railed bed. Her heart
a pulsing stone of gold. Her body wreathed
in living muscles cut free, red water serpents
writhing around her alabaster bones.

I cannot remember what I asked
when I prayed to her. It must have been
for a heart.

When I woke, it was time
to drain fluid from her left lung.

Doctors entered silent as priests,
metal instruments gleaming.
The catheter, like a lance,
slid with precision under her rib.

Jessica Federle

J. Federle is a wandering lover of ghost stories and folktales. She left Kentucky to study poetry in England. Now she lives in Peru with her husband and cow-colored dog, where she writes about her own ghosts and folks. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Montana Mouthful. Find more of her writing at