Pretend there’s a cup of water on the dashboard,
said the former ambulance driver,
and you must drive so carefully, so gently,
you don’t spill a drop.
I tried, I tried so hard after his surgery
to make the drive as gentle as a feather
drifting onto a cloud. But unexpected road
cracks, hidden bumps and train tracks—
even rumbled over so slowly—pained him.
I noted every wince crinkling his closed eyes.
I could not soften the blows enough.
Today, on the longest day of the year,
I drive you home from the hospital—
a thick strip of tape over your newest incision,
your belly chartreuse with four-day-old bruises,
clutching two pillows to your middle after
your second major surgery in a year
of near-constant pain.
Your pod of protectors wants it to stop—
we try to bump you to the surface for air,
we hover over and around you with
pills and puddings, sweet tea and toast,
books and distractions.
We are present; we are witnesses to your suffering.
But we are as helpless as the two new kittens
who await you at home—clueless, really,
stuck in our love.
We do not believe we are enough.
But you guide me through town as I gentle
the car around divots and cracks.
You direct me to the easiest onramp.
Mid-afternoon traffic parts, allows us
smooth passage over a typically bumpy sea.
We pull into the driveway, breathe,
look at each other across the stretch
of this long friendship.
You were perfect, you say.
You didn’t spill a drop.
Moving, strong and deeply touching. The fourth stanza about the pod of protectors is breathtaking. The “mid-afternoon traffic parting”….Wow. The poem shows the reader the most horrible and haunting beauty that is love.
Thanks, April–that’s one fast response! I deeply appreciate such lovely feedback on this baby draft.
“…pod of protectors…” my fave image in this poem….lovely lovely lovely image of water as something to be protected, and comes around full circle to the water in the cup mentioned at the beginning… wonderful…
You were perfect. You did not spill a drop and then you went and wrote the perfect poem about it.
Remember twenty years ago when all my people were dying and I couldn’t remember how to come up for air and you nudged me to the top and said “breathe?” How can I thank you for all of these years? What would I give to spare all of you from the pain of feeling like you are not enough. You are more than enough. My being here is witness to that.
Awww… I do remember. And you thank me all the time. I am grateful. I do feel enough—really. But when those we love are in such pain and we can do so little to alleviate it—except by showing up with tea—that’s when those “not enough” feelings surface again. It’s a lesson I learn again and again—showing up with love is enough. Tea is not bad either!