jon oropeza CC
Intervention in the Waning Day
The son, the husband, the sister, the brother–
we’ve all written letters, like mayoral declarations
of love to the generous woman we’ll call Artemis.
She’s locked inside a cage of mania that she’s flooded
with booze. She tried to escape by fading away
into an ever-smaller body - so thin she can fold
into a paper strip and tries to slide through
the keyhole of the shrinking cell of she. She
retreats, locked in the trap that confines her.
I love you and you are going to die if you don’t
get help, we each say. She laughs and she cries
and she tells of all the times she’s helped herself,
how good she’s become at it, detoxed a thousand times
and we sigh, breathe deep and try so gently to find
a crack in the steel blue walls enclosing her, to uncover
a gap big enough to set a lever, to pry slightly so we can slip
in, let enough light through that she can see herself whole
in the motes of hope that sift under the door.
Artemis looks down at her baggy clothes, heaves
in shuddering breaths thinking of the grand baby
she’s afraid to hold. Her face twists, she spits about
the other son who won’t come around, the one who knows
his mother, another one ravaged by her manic rages.
She notes all this and more and wants less
of it, more of it, all of her, less of her
like this, all that she’s lost, endlessly
recalls why she's crawled into that trap,
snarls and snaps back – at us, at the world,
la-la-las Mary Had a Little Lamb,
Twinkle Twinkle Little…little…little…
And the light fades, the sun sets but no stars
come out, nothing twinkles. Artemis tosses her head,
waves us off with the back of her splotched hand,
declares she’s not interested in help and we leave her
with our talisman love letters, the treatment center’s
packing list which she does not wad up
and throw back at us as we walk off.
The Heart Is a Brain Is a Muscle Is Pain
I have a good heart – the kind that is lattice lined
the kind that once failed to beat - the fault
of arterial muck made of cheese and bad genes.
I have seen on a screen that heart beat, held it in my gaze
as a medical man slipped a wire up the trunk
of me, a tree, from limb to branch
to the tiny twigs that were meant to feed that beating thing
so it would feed me, arterial fairy fingers that cupped
this pulsing thing at the very center of me.
He placed eleven delicate tubes, expanded
like Chinese finger traps, to let the blood flow freely
again. My doctor told me I would never feel so well
as when I recovered. Until the darkness. The darkness
always comes, he said. When you least expect it.
I, he said, have rooted around in the very heart of you
and such things have consequences. When
the darkness came, I curled up in a ball so small
I burrowed into the tiniest parts of me
buried as in a coal mine, tight and near lightless.
There I heard a child’s whimper, or was it me,
sorrowful as wilted vine.
From up near the light, I heard the Doctor’s words:
“Depression” has had said and now I knew what
he meant. Later, unburied, I apologized to you.
It would have come sooner. I am still ashamed
that I had to suffer to believe that you did.
Dick Westheimer has—with his wife and writing companion Debbie—lived on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio for over 40 years. His most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Rattle, Paterson Review, Chautauqua Review, RiseUp Review, Minyan, Gyroscope Review, and Cutthroat. More can be found at dickwestheimer.com
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