After the Operation

After twelve hours
Under the knife,
She had awakened like a tourist
Reluctantly returning
From the other side.
It was such a peaceful place
She could easily have stayed
But her son, who had resided there
For nine full years
Had sent her back
With the admonition that
It wasn’t yet her time.

In recovery,
She was speaking French
To puzzled nurses
When I arrived.
Her shaven head
And crisscrossed stitches
At the base of her skull
Gave her the insouciant air
Of punk or pirate.
How do you feel, I asked.
She shrugged and said,
It always could be worse.
Her incandescent smile
Lit up the room.
Two hours out of surgery
She was already
The darling of the cancer ward.

Back home she was the queen,
Much admired for
Her sagacious wit.
Ensconced in her recliner,
She entertained the court
With tales of ditzy nurses
And after-hours parties
In her hospital room.
All tears and sadness were
Banished from her kingdom,
The tumors given funny names,
The angry scars concealed
By brightly colored caps,
Crocheted by her daughter
In a fit of cancer chic.
She learned to walk again,
With the slow, hesitant gait
Of a baby taking her first steps.
Later, in her beloved gardens,
She wielded her walker
Like a chariot,
Navigating seas of flowers
With a gentle wave of greeting
To reassure the frightened children
In her path

Struggling with gaps
In her memory,
At times she groped for words
As if they were butterflies
Hovering just beyond her reach.
In frustration she decided to invent
A whole new language.
Scallops became notshrimp,
English muffins were transformed
Into littleroundbreads.

By the time she left us
The scars had faded to
Tiny blue rivulets
On old maps.
She had entered the seventh age,
Become an infant
To be turned and fed,
And so there were no final
Words of farewell,
No pure adagio of love,
Only her enigmatic smile
As she greeted her lost son.

(Originally published in The Barefoot Review)

 

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