Michele Rappoport

I want to write a book someone wants to burn

she tells me on her last day.
I squeeze her hand and tell a lie so big
it can be seen from space. It’s never too late, I say
even though I know the meds, looming large now
inject themselves into everything she says, does,
won’t even let her use her phone.
Who is this fiery stranger?
Certainly not my mother, gentle as the cats
she rescued, rebellious only in her wild hair,
and now, not even that, I think, as
I stroke the strands slicked straight back
and tight as skin, a nursing home convenience.
I search her expressionless face
and find it’s mine that’s changing,
remembering the obscenities of a sanctioned life.
The smoke wafting thoughtlessly
from my father’s pipe into her post-tubercular lungs.
The silence from his end of the table
or the harsh word that screamed
like a missile across the turbulent air.
Those days when she lay on her unmade bed,
head heavy on her pillow, hair greased roughly
in the shape of her last salon set.
Fire gone.
And now, perhaps, Prometheus in a hospital gown
fighting to steal it back?
Housekeeping comes in and starts to clean
her rolling bedside table where she play-eats meals,
the hanging TV, the strip of fluorescent sun.
I reach into my pocket and pull out a rock from my garden,
a pretty one, polished on my wheel, and place it in her hand.
She looks at me and starts to cry.
Is this what you think of me?  
And now I’m crying too, though I swore
I wouldn’t and swat at a fly I miss
again and again and think of the insects
she killed for me
summers before A/C and the rec room floor
sweating from condensation
and every creeping thing
skittered across the cool gray tiles.
This is what I remember after she sleeps
and I walk the white halls, leaving her alone,
the fly buzzing still, dodging
the burning wish, the hurtful rock,
the bug brown smear of death.

Michele Rappoport is a writer and artist who splits her time between Arizona and a hill on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  Her writing has appeared in various literary journals, including Delmarva Review, High Desert Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, The Centifictionist, and Art in the Time of Covid-19, an anthology of pandemic writing and art. 



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