Poem by Richard H. Fox

"Collection of Bones" © TJ Edson

 

Möbius strip

Figures the room would be on Lower Level 7.
LL1 is x-ray, MRI, imaging.
LL2 radiation oncology.
I don’t care about the rest.
You told me not to think of them until I was there.
And now, I’m here. And so are you.

Figure this room for 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not too cold to freeze, ideal temp to preserve.
          Preserve.
Never thought a warehouse job would prepare me for this.
You never went in the freezers when you visited me at work.
          Didn’t want to catch a chill.
          At least I have the proper clothing.
I brought your red roller suitcase with supplies.
Hope you approve. I’m doing this for you, not me.

Let’s start with the granny panties.
Pick up your right foot – wait you can’t do that.
          A little corpse humor. Ok, I’ll stop.
          You’re rolling your eyes, giving me that look.
          I can never draw your humor line.
          Often you guffaw.
          Other times—well, I’ve learned to learn.
Ok, lifting your right foot, slipping on panties.
          Now the left. Slide up to the knees.
The challenge. Do this without popping my back.
If you knew I was here, you’d tell me to find someone
          strong. Can’t ask our boys, of course.
Bending my knees, lifting your tush, pulling the panties higher.
          You buy them from Vermont Country Store. Extra elastic.
Up to the waist, to the scars I kiss when you feel blue—
                     C-section.
                     Emergency diverticulitis surgery.
                     Ostomy reversal ‘procedure’.
Like the tracks in Monet’s Field At Gennevilliers
          I tell you they are beautiful but you don’t believe me.
          They are you, our life, the hard challenges.
Panties done. No question about whether to use a diaper.
          There’s always a perk.

I brought the shell dress – ok not a formal choice,
          ut neither are we. Makes me see your smile.
          You wear it without a bra. Loose, flowing.
You step in to don it. So, bottom up I’ll go.
          Usually I just zip.
          First I’ll tuck the top into tight folds.
          Left foot up, slide the dress, right foot, slide.
          Bend my knees (only lifting with my legs, dear),
                     up over the butt.
Hmm. Wish you could make a suggestion here.
Guess I will lift you up into a seating position.
Your head in my hands.                   God, I love you.
                     I will only be able to talk to you
                         without getting a reply.
Balancing your head on my stomach, walking you up.
Cheek on my shoulder—breasts point to the door.
          Body language’s different after death.
Ok. Pulling on the dress. Pick up your right arm.
          Age spots, your constellations.
          Pull the sleeve over. Now the left.
We can skip deodorant. No worry about rashes.
Holding you around the collarbone with my left arm.
          Reach in back for the zipper with my right hand.
Good thing I mastered one hand zippering.
Lay you down gently. Should have brought that fox pillow.

Here are your favorite woven sandals.
Too bad they only come in Lion color.
Sole marked with the shape of your foot,
          an impression of gravity, sweat, never polish.
Toe nails cut short, rounded tops in sympathy with tips.
Flesh removed along big toes, not cosmetic,
          but to avoid ingrowth.
It’s easy—won’t say painless—to cup your heel,
          slip on the left, now the right.
          Don’t even have to loosen the straps.

When we first met, your hair was long and silky,
          either over the shoulders or a pony tail.
Since the boys were little, it’s been short.
Sometimes Talia got a little too creative with haircuts.
          You’d talk about finding someone new, but
          would have her ‘fix it’. I was never much help.
          Your hair looks fetching to me, even when we wake.
I’ll brush it out. Thought about a spray bottle and a hair dryer.
          Don’t trust myself and imagine you asking why?
Easy to comb, straight and fine. Sometimes, you tried
          curly or a perm, but I prefer the natural look.
          Ok, I only said I liked the new styles.
Have your mascara and lipstick. Feel confident about the lips.
In what world does me applying mascara sound worthy?
We all have our talents.
          Coloring within the lines is not mine.
          We’ll skip mascara. You never need it.

My feet are cold but not as cold as yours.
This dressing seemed a vast task. It’s done.
Yet, I stand here waiting to put on more clothes—or—
          straighten your fingers—or—adjust your hem.
Wait. I have to check the tag in the back of the dress.
That is my grave responsibility. Make certain it’s tucked in.
                      I will miss that.

I’m a lingerer. Last to leave a party or meeting.
          You like heading home while the room’s still full.
          Don’t have you to keep me from milling in place.

We used to joke about who would be the dresser
          and who the dressee,
          who the mourner, who sleeping.
Guess we won’t be able to debate which is the harsher task.
          I mean, I’ll talk to you all day about this,
          especially when I’m in the kitchen with a sponge,
          looking out the window at the crab apple tree,
          feeling water drip down my arm soaking my shirt.
There must be something more.

 

"Collection of Bones" © TJ Edson
“Collection of Bones” © TJ Edson

 

Richard H. Fox was born and bred in Worcester MA. He is the author of two poetry collections: Time Bomb (2013) and wandering in puzzle boxes (2015). When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard’s poems focus on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts.

TJ Edson is the Art Director of Oddball Magazine and a volunteer at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery. He has also had work appear recently in Boston Compass.