My Sister’s Hands
I rest my forehead on nerves and muscle that
worked for years. I think this is dying: swollen
knuckles like rusted hinges closing her hands to fists
cold as the porcelain she once prized for paper weight
on her office desk. Then the surprise of one last grasp
of bone-deep fingers, fingernails still tobacco-stained.
Thickened calluses. One finger crippled to quarter moon,
and the index, childhood impaled, bearing jagged scars.
This lifeless hand I hold for one last kiss.
My Son Confesses
Each night you lower
the bed rail behind the white wings
of curtains and crawl in beside him, defiant
of sheets that are blood-smudged,
spongy with sweat, sour with fluids.
Brushing away tendrils of tubes,
you trace the labyrinths of his body—
first with your fingertips and then
lips over tissue-thin skin.
He knows it is love that defies
as you, monitoring the vital signs—
offered groin, rising heat, race horse pulse—
ride his white-knuckled shudders
over the edge to a place beyond pain.
Madelyn Garner has been a public school administrator and instructor of English. Among her many educational achievements and honors, she is the recipient of the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities for encouraging incorporation of the arts into school programs. Named a Leo Love Merit Scholar at the Taos Summer Writer’s Conference, she also was awarded an Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Annual Writing Retreat scholarship. In 2010, she won the Jackson Hole Writers Conference Poetry Prize. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, Slant, Roanoke Review, Nimrod International Journal, Water–Stone Review, PMS poemmemoirstory, and the anthology Beyond Forgetting, Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease. With co-editor Andrea L. Watson, she published Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined, which was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.