CAREGIVER SONNETS -- for Robert Gladstein
From the bedroom he calls for help, his voice a complex map I try to decipher -- does his tone imply I should move quickly? Is he lonesome for my company? We're both lost in the divided
highways of his body. He growls his teeth at me but I don't take offense. His anger stems from weakness, an embarrassment some men feel when others see their illness. I'm nurse and witness,
needed or dismissed, saddened when I'm called because I know he wants his independence again. I can bring him almost anything but that. Sometimes it seems as if our hearts give out and become
extraneous as the oxygen tanks, these hospice numbers, the multiple bottles of futile pills.
Your body was ground into shards of bone and powder and now you lie in that redwood grove at Marty’s. I’ve lived in a muted ravine so long I’ve lost sight of the top or the sun. I’m trying to find my way out.
The tulips your sister planted, the red ones, came up last April. In the afternoon breezes they nod their morphined heads. Alongside them are huge blue irises -- the two showy flowers together would’ve
made you shudder. No matter. You felt she didn't understand you; you were probably right. Though I wonder whether any of us are fully understood. It’s nearly November and the onset of the wet season,
your favorite time of year. We used to go outside when the first storm came and watch the heavens veer in rain.
Bart Rawlinson received the 2013 William Matthews Poetry Prize. He has also received the Eugene Ruggles Poetry Award, the Joseph Henry Jackson Prize, and the Robert Browning Prize for Dramatic Monologue, among other awards. His work has been published, or is forthcoming, in Asheville Poetry Review, Santa Clara Review, Poetry Flash, New Millenneum Writings, and other journals. He is Associate Professor, English at Mendocino College. He and his partner live in Forestville, California.