February 2011 – for Mom
We enter life bound to mother by a tube
which must be cut, or gnawed off, before we are free.
There is a tribe that saves the dried umbilicus
of each newborn and ancestor together in a sack.
My wife, untethered, gave our three children life.
As soon as each could breathe,
I cut the cord, a wet gift to medicine.
Faintly blue, our first puffed oxygen until she blushed.
Fetal heart sets the beat.
Then the lungs join in.
Music begins at birth and
the gentle rhythm of life proceeds.
The eternal drums —
Ba bump. Ba bump. Ba bump. In. Out.
Ba bump. Ba bump. Ba bump. Ah. Hah.
We beat and breathe. Then speak. And sing.
And eat and drink and kiss.
Tempo fast or slow, crescendos our own.
Life beats on to its finale.
The music stops, a chair removed.
One must leave. But when?
Medical metronomy keeps the beat.
Beeps and bings pace pulse and breath,
monitors and ventilators sing a song
of intensive care.
Hernial strangulation, intestinal incarceration,
small bowel resection, septic shock.
One tube cut out, new tubes stuck in.
Intravenous needles, arterial catheters, nasogastric feeding, ventilation, urinary catheters, dialysis line,
aggressive flow of fluids for life.
Defying doctors, at three A.M.,
my mother yanked the ventilator tube
clear out of her throat.
ICU alarms ring stat!!
“She hates that tube,” Dad said,
recalling one ventilator day post-surgery,
heart repaired at 80.
This time, surprised, a week
was more than she could bear.
Why? When? She mouthed around the tube
and frame that blocked her lips, her breath,
her speech and swallow.
“As soon as possible,”
she thumbed on the word board.
Now she’s free. Tubeless, behind a puffing mask,
enriched, then sniffing whiffs of canula oxygen,
Then simple breaths of just plain air.
She is made whole, head and body,
can eat food by mouth, drink,
speak with love to those who love her.
Heart beat steady, tempoed, pressure up and down,
breathing in and out.
She can’t believe it. Bad but good.
One by one the staff removes her tubes.
She returns to her source, her body,
born again, alive, alone,
except for all of us.