“Cnidaria” by Lisa L. Siedlarz

Lisa L. Siedlarz


He is brain dead. His tongue moves,
touches lips as if to moisten them.
Grandpa’s tongue—heaving of the soul
pushing, pushing at the portal.
Tongue to eat. Tongue to speak.
Tongue to kiss. Tongue—a jellyfish
whose tentacles stray to sting us.

This hospital room is hazy. Yet I know
it like I know which dog walks in
my room by the sound of claws
on hardwood, know my lover
is near from his cologne,
know Grandpa is still alive
because his tongue strays.

My chair is close to his bed,
an open paperback across my lap.
He loved to fish so I read to him
Old Man and the Sea.
He once talked about jellyfish,
translucent pink flesh expanding,
collapsing, how they sting.

In the hall, a little girl cuts dolls from tan
paper, the kind attached at the hand.
With crayons she gives life: blue eyes,
red lips. Brown & black hair, yellow,
like the little girl who is coloring. Expanded,
a world of dolls hold hands & sing. Collapsed
they are beached jellyfish.

She looks up at me, her eyes the color
of milk. Empyrean, she says. Empyrean
spills from my lips, floats like hot ash
grows brighter, stings my eyes. I raise
my hands for cover. Translucent, I see my
heart: Beat, beating, beaten.
Walls are ivory and slightly dimpled.

Sun casts rainbows through glass. In Grandpa’s
sterile room, I touch his hand, watch his tongue.
Collapse. Expand. Collapse.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007

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