“The Crisis Angel” by Sybil Pittman Estess

Sybil Pittman Estess


OK, she said, I will get you through this.
Dressed in pink, she kept pulling me
through multiplied crises, one after
the next. Would mother live? Wouldn’t
she? Was I going to get there in time?
Which plane? What would I find?
(I’d never been in an ICU.)
the angel said, it’s going to get worse
but you’ll make it. I liked her a lot,
her dainty hair yellow as corn-silk.
Her dress immaculate, the color of
a first wild spring rose. Her will, tough.
She wouldn’t take a pill. No Miltown.
Didn’t even drink white wine. I’d never
cared for pink before. Thought it meant
not being able to face what’s real. See,
she said, what it means to be fully female?
You’ll be able to bend on the spot. You
can be a displaced person at the drop
of a hat—yet not forget who you are.

Remember the Jews in Babylon? Prisoners
who wouldn’t confess? Read about Lot’s
wife, frozen because she looked back.
Recall Odysseus stuck on the island, he too
wanting to go home. Think of Penelope.
Job. (He refused to curse God even for
his wife.) Picture Christ. Did you know
I was there that day fanning his fever? Back
then my garb was white and sexless. Now,
I am Eve, Esther, Marys—Mother, Magdeline.

She stayed with me, since I couldn’t shed her.
We went to K-Mart, close to the hospital and
cheap. I bought some temporary clothes to
wear as a captive. My exile. Everything
pink: pajamas, slacks, sweater for cool,
crystalline April there. Underwear. I have
learned that pink is powerful. And I am
growing my own puffy light wings, sweet
as cotton candy. I am becoming my dear
crisis angel: I live in the instant. My husband,
son, city, house, job, clothes, garden, poems—
my life—are far away back home. But now,

I sit at the head of the bed of sick and dying.
I bind the wounds of my relatives, friends.
I pray five times a day to nourish stamina.
I sculpt and mold and praise whatever comes.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004


Sybil Pittman Estess: “Age 60 now, I burn to write while time lasts. I began writing diaries, prayers when I was a child. Today, poems are prayers. I am grateful to have this poem out—about my mom’s first health crisis, a time when I was alone, needing angels, prayers. Mother died, April 2003.”

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