Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature




1. New downward cycle every three weeks

I pull my body out of bed,
shuffle down the hall,
squint at the furnace buttons,
hope I press 'on'.

Heading back for those last minutes
of body flat on mattress
I notice light spilling
from his room.

He lies cross–wise on the bed,
blanket twisted around his hips,
arms crossed on chest,
whole frame shivering.

Eyes fixed on mine
he says with slurred voice,
"I've had my light on for hours
but nobody came."

"Last time I put my light on
someone came in two minutes.
Where were you?
Isn't anybody on duty?"

I murmur soothing words,
don't even try to explain,
tuck blankets under his chin.

Hours later he resurfaces,
surprised that he lies in a puddle
and I recognize with a sigh
our next downward cycle.

Published in End–Cycle, poems about caregiving, 2007

2. Pieces of the Moon

"Pieces of moon fall on your body . . ."
      – Janet Thomas

Like pieces of the moon
falling on your body
shards of memory       sea glass
on a tide–scoured beach

      The you I knew
      flies to Saturn
       whirls its rings

What's left
a shrinking shell
the smile you beamed at your mother
ghost of the boy you once were

hands clapping
      and wringing
knees pressed together

Soon you will leave
the bone frame that holds you
Sail forever into space

       But I remember when you
       like pieces of the moon
      fell onto my body

Published in End–Cycle, poems about caregiving, 2007

3. Pillow

With a severe crick in my neck
I gave my friend
the memory–foam

special–form pillow,
the bad–back cure–all
for night–time woes.

She woke each morning
with the expensive wonder
shoved to the side.

Gave it to her friend
whose neck then refused to bend
as she donated it back to me,

that iron–filled wonder.

4. Losses

Plastic straw in a crystal glass
    of water tinged with bourbon.
Hamburger patties with bottle BBQ sauce
    where once was prime rib rare.
Top denture fallen from slack mouth
    where the tight one traveled the world.
Padded briefs instead of
    turquoise silk bikinis.
Hands fluttering in sleep–blasted night
    that once stroked joy into both bodies.
Keys, friends, loves, favorite foods
    disappear–or come back in weird forms.
The most beloved person in the universe.
    Who are you?

Patricia Wellingham–Jones, PhD, RN, has written Don't Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer and End–Cycle: Poems about caregiving, among others. She is a three–time Pushcart Prize nominee and her work is published in numerous anthologies, journals and Internet magazines. A cancer survivor, she has a longtime interest in 'healing writing' and the benefits people gain from writing and reading their work together.
Her website is:   http://www.wellinghamjones.com

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