Wednesday, February 11, 2009
One View of Julie
This is a poem I am working on about my sister.
She was a beautiful child
Irish colors of copper and green
a face you always remembered as dimpled
though it wasn't
an upturned nose
We loved dolls, Julie and I
hers blonde, mine, dark,
Snow White, Rose Red,
She the beauty, me the brains
Then came the injections
blood sugar tests
syringes in the bathroom
clearing of sweet things from the cupboards.
A shift happened.
Dad, the doctor; Mom, the nurse.
the glazed-over eyes and slurred words
we quickly got orange juice or candy
and watched her slowly return
like an image coming back into focus
and then the relief that it was over
but she was disobedient
and it would come again
and she pulled out her hair
growing back in a little crown
my mother's mouth a thin, straight line
as she cut long strokes with scissors
trying to make it right
but it wasn't
i don't remember
her looks got her boys
her mouth, attention
Irreverent, funny, drunk
Julie didn't give a rat's ass, it seemed.
A trail behind her of jobs
told us to keep our advice
told us to fuck off
she had married boyfriends she met at church
she had medical bills
because the diabetes was taking its toll
and she had to run faster.
This disease makes your little veins burst
and your feet go numb
and your eyes go to hell
and your bones get brittle
and your nerves don't tell you when you broke your ankle
until your eyes insist that the angle is wrong
lying there on the kitchen floor.
Your body races toward old age.
She had a heart attack.
Near the end, Thanksgiving
She traveled here with Dad,
He the doctor, she the patient,
On the ride up, already, Julie zones out
(stubbornly refuses breakfast once again)
He hauls her into the restaurant
the waiter calls 911
"it's ok, I am a doctor, give me some orange juice"
My old dad dealing for the millionth time with Julie
It happens again at midnight
I hear her screaminG:
in an unholy voice
a cat howl
a ghost howl
my feet lead me to her
she is drenched in sweat
Dad looks weary in his pajamas
we wait for the orange juice to work
In my terror I yell at her with all the love
i can muster
and I hold her and rock her
I hear her voice in my shirt:
"I don't want to die"
Nothing we could think of could stop these things from happening.
Three months later
My dad knew she was gone before he got there.
Only the cats greeted him, skittish, hiding.
I got the call.
I remember, I remember
Her old boyfriend was in the doorway
at the funeral
people from church
all of us sickened, sickened
cleaning out her apartment
excavating the layers
witness to the life and the aftermath:
hastily shoved furniture to fit the gurney
sheets dragged off the bed
dishes in the sink
surprising, sweet touches
an unfinished needlepoint:
"A Sister is a Friend Given to You by God."