I soaked in sweat for hours,
in my room, lying on my back,
staring at the ceiling.
At a time I should have been growing,
I felt like I was subtracting.
Not bitter at all. Not beating up on God.
Not praying either.
I wasn’t privy to the doctor’s words.
And my mother’s face
concealed its sorry contents.
I had no father to reassure me.
And my youngest sister looked in
with the emptiest of eyes
before getting all dressed up for a date.
That’s childhood –
sitting up in bed in the middle of the night,
watched over by the heavy dark,
or breathing steam with a towel over my head
sick and trembling while others pace the room,
holding a mirror to my face while
looking for signs of color in my cheeks.
Now I refer to it as nostalgia.
To playing sport, reading books,
add panting for breath on a humid night,
with windows wide open
and insects buzzing in search of light.
A ten-year-old body of nothing but bad news –
it wasn’t my fault, surely.
I’d studied hard. I’d washed my hands before mealtimes.
I’d cleaned my teeth on a fairly regular basis.
But illness has no time for cause and effect,
good deed and reward.
Of all the ones in the house,
it had business with me, my heart, my lungs,
my willingness to suffer in hope
of healthier times ahead.
My mother used to say,
“You want boiling down and starting over.”
There were times my beginnings
adopted the guise of my endings.
But it’s years later.
Death still takes me on advisement.