Audio: Read by the author.
On the fifth day the epidural fell from my back
like a flower wilted from the sun’s touch, a match
burnt and curling down to the last memory
of a dream that repeated: to find the good
you must uproot the pain, the protocols
of catheters and NG tubes. The blood was pulled
through a line and then I never saw it again, Lord—
only the bile of a hundred breaths, the words
spoken to that original ash and paste we rise from
where down deep something burps and flashes—
the little demons that pause in quick reflections
before sleep and the upper corners of dark rooms,
the diaphragm stopping where it hurts
and then going on to hold in a thousand hopes
and scriptures. Days after being awake, I wrote you
prayer requests and wept in a small and empty room
left open as a chapel in this hospital. The pews
were wooden and hard, and your book there
on the table seemed forever splayed open
as if the surgeon had at last found
the song he was looking to cut out.
Clay Matthews’s books are Shore (Cooper Dillon), Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon), Runoff (BlazeVox), and Superfecta (Ghost Road). A new book, Four-Way Lug Wrench, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. He teaches at Elizabethtown Community & Technical College.