Memory XVII

Memory XVII

A sweet smell of dying flesh stops us at the door.
It seems to be coming from the linen closet, but we’re not
fooled at all. Not at all. The flowers droop.

Some of us whimper at the sound of you, whirring
and sucking, curled and old in your hospital bed,
tubes and catheters and IVs running into you.

Not even chemo will keep you forever. We’re not one
to hold a grudge, after all, we were only small when
you hurt us so. Our wounds have scarred nicely.

But none of us are surprised to see these three
witches perched, hovering over your bed. After all,
it’s not like we’re concerned with your eternal soul…

The youngest of the three with bloody hands holds
a cup of water to your sucking lips; her job was finished
long ago. The spindle lies glittering in her lap.

We can barely see her as she whispers, dark
braid swaying, the story of your birth into your hungry
withered ears. We can hear your breath catch.

The second is round as life, and her tapestry is
so long that it rolls out the door. Some of us stumbled
crossing its folds and tangles on the way in.

She peers deeply into its swathes of color, thin
fingers unravel a worn grey thread from the rich
tangle of future threads. It hums in her fingers.

We see the second look long lastingly at you
as she hands her strand of grey thread from across
her loom to the crone with silver hairs upon her chin,

who is cackling over black basalt blades, crouching there
grim and furious, oh-so-ready to snip at the last
the very last inch of thread; unless she’s trying

to decide when to snip, which shuddering breath to cut
short. Moon drops are sliding from our eyes,
we promise. Feel the slime of our eyes upon your cheek,

and rejoice at our devotion. For you are no legend,
no Arthur to be shuffled off by three bright queens to Avalon.
There’s no return for you once the thread’s been cut.

Even we could decide the hour of your end.
See this length of electrical cord, plunging deep
into grids of power: one swift yank and you’re dead.

All we’re saying: if someone gave this line
a tender yank, a loving pull, a flirting tug
your dainty heart-contraption would go all sputtery,

just another broken cog in your old fleshpot.
But we’re not so unkind. We love you yet. We love
your withered and drying face, love your raspy

breathing, love your spittled lips and memories of you.
But we promise: when those witching shadows of all-night
crowd around unbroken and leave you gibbering

as you name each and every ghoul, we promise,
then you shall be utterly and truly alone.
our squeaky toys and sharp balloons and buckets

bright of daisies and pansies and violets
will all desert you. These neon or lackadaisical
lights aren’t so flattering: your face’s like pasty dough

marmalade or old sea chalk. You don’t have any fishing left in you.
Those old scissors are scraping back for a final cut,
screeching and we press our hands tight against our ears.

Oh, and now the old hag’s laughing:
those clunky slicing terminal scissors are closing
cutting close your last breath-hoard.

Quick! catch it fast in your sack—forget the hag:
she’s already wandering, wonders where her next child’s
gonna be, sawing air with blushing blades—don’t sigh.

Keep the last breath safe and soft in ashes and dust.


Huh. Wow. I guess I was pretty angry when I was younger.


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