photo via PxHere
…………What we play is life…
We begin to study Uncle George
in a cavern of disintegration.
A hospital bed wrenched through
a narrow doorway. Shag carpeting
cauterized and peeled from the concrete floor.
A hoyer lift wheeled in. A pully installed
so George can shift from horizontal to vertical.
His days become worry beads
of bladder and bowel. He wakes listening
for his intestines to move, an inflammation
throbbing beneath his belly. Such indignity,
this obsession with the inner workings beneath the flesh.
He longs to be carved out, like a suspended gourd,
to be disemboweled of his bowels.
One night he slides out of his bed at 4 a.m.
The next morning, guard rails are erected.
Penned in even more, his bed shrinks into a cage.
In his twenties, Uncle George gouged into
miniature spaces in the mouths of his patients.
Master detective of decay. The drill bit his weapon
against root rot. He scrounges out dilapidation
with the most delicate of instruments.
In his thirties, his vision is castrated by glaucoma.
No one will open their jaws
for a blind dentist.
Uncle George no longer recognizes his son, his wife.
I want to see your supervisor, he says to his son.
This is the worst hospital ever.
Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane on a jazz loop.
A muddled salve of syncopated fusion
daubs his pulse with minor sevenths, with swing,
with swag. A lounge lizard breathing in swirls
of Marlboro and Pall Mall, a symphony of
conga drums and piccolo trumpets.
The IV drip ticks the minutes away. He counts them
on his fingers. An abacus of brittle bones. His body
a caul suspending his organs. He is a diminuendo
with a rattle percussing in his throat. He breathes
once every minute. His lips curl into a smile
and he is gone.
The shells from the military salute
are tucked into the folds of the triangle flag.
A grateful nation thanks him for his devotion
to country. She feels the weight of widow
for the first time. The Greek Orthodox incense
penetrates her cardigan. She is the last
in the parade of mourners saying their final goodbyes.
Mosaic icons of Mary and Jesus stand silent guard.
As she kisses him goodbye, she keens My Darling,
leaving her lipstick on his starched white collar.
After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne Peel is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016). Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, among others. Marianne is also a veteran musician, playing flute/sax and singing in various orchestras, bands, choirs, and jazz bands her whole life.
Listen to the 1957 recording of Thelonious Monk performing “Monk’s Mood,” with John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); and Wilbur Ware (bass). [Universal Music Group]
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