Naval Hospital, San Diego
What insect planted the invader in her mind?
The one that takes her back to the gully
between grandma’s sanatorium
and the orphanage where she
and her brothers and sisters were sent.
She reaches for strings we cannot see,
speaks of flames coming out of paintings
and a large pink cat guarding the bed.
She sleeps so deeply even the captain’s command
will not wake her or she tosses herself
against the bed rails, bruising her legs.
She pulls out catheters as if they were instruments
of torture doctors use in secret experiments
she whispers about to us in the morning.
Long hours, our bodies stilled, waiting for her.
Those caught in the mazes of her swollen brain
and able to walk away can locate sanctuary,
a healing garden where the wind will push itself
against the eucalyptus clinging to the hillside
since before Friar Junipero arrived from Spain.
Hummingbirds play in a waterfall and take spins
around a bronze imitation of themselves.
Beyond hospital walls where they play
musical chairs with her room assignments,
it is possible to push her wheel chair up the slope
so she can witness the phoebe resting in shade,
calling its own name, among the Echinacea,
its blooms dried by the summer sun, and
over a bronze frog no bigger than my thumbnail.
“If I’d pushed one more button I wouldn’t be here.”
She even hides her veins from the doctor
hunting with ultrasound, after midnight,
when no one waits to see a fetus move.
She insures that each nurse and doctor is introduced
to each visitor, rather as if it were tea time
and we were passing trays of crumpets and cake.
She withdraws, wronged by promises
that she will be ready to go home soon,
when it turns out “soon” is not today.
Once in a while she can’t stand the brightness,
Resists rising to meet a morning under the power
Of a Santa Ana, too windy to spend time out
Picking the last blackberries of the season;
All her plans scatter like beach sand.
Usually she rises to another diamond sharp sun
And cloudless skies heavy with hydrocarbons
That gray out the San Gabriels and the valley
Over coastal hills that drop to sea level around her;
All her plans melt, glass in a furnace.
She settles into hours in front of computer screens
Or television, surrounded by bits and bytes and paper–
Trying to stir the writer at rest to use a pencil
To fill blank sheets with words out of her isolation;
All her dreams are about waking up a reader.
But when the onshore winds bring the ocean to her,
She emerges from the swaddling clothes of the house,
Called to trim back berry vines, spray off white flies,
And harvest oversized zucchini with the last tomatoes;
All her plans shed for a barefoot walk.
For this, autumn awards her with floods of light,
Soft pink and orange swaths to mark the final hours
Of ever shorter days drifting in through open windows
On three sides of the sun room; all the household tasks
Weigh more lightly on her unsettled heart.
Trina Gaynon is a literacy tutor in southern California. She has poems in the anthologies San Diego Poetry Annual, Saint Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, Obsession: Sestinas for the 21st Century, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of Sonnets of the Early Third Millennium, Bombshells and Knocking at the Door, as well as numerous journals including Natural Bridge, Reed and the final issue of Runes. Her chapbook <em)An Alphabet of Romance is available from Finishing Line Press. Find her online at http://tdgaynon.webs.com/