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Summer 06

After Her Diagnosis
Ruth Housman

I see her, kneeling
in the garden with her scissors
and watering can
like smoke she wreathes
her way through the flower beds
she is milkweed

in the early days
she sought company
lured me with fresh brewed coffee
hot buttered biscuits
her house was filled with books, her art --
she had a way of painting waves
a painted parrot hung from the kitchen ceiling
it flew above our heads

we always found something to laugh about
it seemed necessary
I bought a little red notebook
to record something stupid, something
too ridiculous -- jokes
in unlikely places

I told her about an astronomy talk
the discovery of a strange formation
in deepest space, a satellite picture
just like a little homunculus
-- a child sucking its thumb
she smiled, "How delightful!"

in the big Boston hospital
surrounded by all that's antiseptic
and gauze, attached to tubes -- all that plastic
she pleaded at me with her eyes
"Make me laugh now."

I prayed to the goddess of morphine
forced a smile that was not quite right.
She grabbed for it. She couldn't say it
but I felt her words. "Hey, who are we kidding?"
She rode out on a dolphin's back
a knife in the sun.

Ruth Housman is a licensed independent clinical social worker and former speech pathologist whose A Play on Words was produced at the Boston Playwright's Marathon in 2004 by the Portland Stage Company. Many of her articles have appeared in FOCUS, the Mass Association of Social Worker's publication, and she is currently at work on a new play titled Nun of the Above.

Boston Literary Magazine 2006