After the Stroke by Dale Champlin

The only thing dead is my right arm—
limp as a stunned mackerel washed up by the surf.
I can see the fish is still attached to my shoulder.
How weird is that? I can’t grasp the word for stroke.

Nothing makes sense. I forget about breakfast,
forget I should be hungry but don’t forget
to apply lipstick and sunblock. I’m not close to dead.
Not even dying. In the ambulance, hospital bound,

EMTs stick electrodes here and there. I think
about a nameless poet—a piercing through the septum
of her nose, rhinestone studs dotting her face—
I name her Death, nothing gentle about her,

except the fragrance of dead roses and her mothering me
over every pothole. I recall the time I was doing crafts
in the basement and my puffy leopard slippers
snarled up in a paper bag filled with trash, I couldn’t 

brace myself for the fall and my face landed smack
on the concrete. When I went to look at myself in the bathroom,
my bottom lip was wedged between my teeth. I yanked it free.
For days my mouth had the pouty look of a Hollywood starlet. 

Death isn’t a hall pass—someday Death will come
to take me, a permission slip tucked into her skinny jeans.
She’ll tell me, You have a week’s worth of detention,
then all bets are off

Image credit: Grégoire A. Meyer

Leave a Reply