come to the edge, the edge
(a poem to dad)
i have followed myself to a hotel balcony
in switzerland and i still can’t decide whether
to take on that new editing project.
and i can’t figure out how to think about memory.
do you think we were the wood and
wrought iron bench outside the tackroom
at the horse show in louisville?
and i didn’t like fig newtons, though
they were sunday trail rides, leather and pizza.
wherever i am, my body follows.
though it’s true, neurons form every day and cells
slough off. the styrofoam planets that fell
from their pipe cleaners were spaces of amnesia.
and i was always grappling for you.
because i could never be sure if i tasted
the honeysuckle from the lawn, and even the windows
of your animal hospital had to be re-caulked.
i can see how my artist boyfriend had arms
that were pale and thin with charcoal.
but i forgot for a while the way
you wanted the hairbrush pressed hard
from your eyebrows to the base
of your neck. the oscillating speed at which
i drove toward you, weighing each second
against the corners with the cops.
and i’d still, would still. i’d give you
each new or sloughing cell
before i’d hold one back.
july 2012: genetic heart condition.
the day after i got the diagnosis, i was tired.
talking wore me out. i knew i was hungry
only when i heard my stomach late-afternoon
growl. my cousins took me to dairy-rite—
where my granddad and uncle and dad used to go.
so i had two strawberry milkshakes.
i wanted to neither shove nor clutch the clouds
of grief: lengthening storm. i wanted them to roll
of their own accord.
hand sanitizer in a hospital room
purell is purell.
it did not love him.
it did not guard
or say from across the room—
it has no memory,
it did not concern itself
with learning how to drain the tube
that threaded from his chest
through his never-sterile skin
to the filled-full air
or only using ninety-nine point nine-nine percent
germ-free fingers (if it had them)
or telling you (if it knew)
it was the nurse
or no one
who once (perhaps) forgot.
it was not surprised to see you
wheel your father back
three days after you took him home
or to find he had an infection
and must have left with an infection.
it stayed in its bottle
in the hallway,
in the doorway of the room,
on his tray table,
in your purse.
you were wrong to think it could save you.
Linda Harris Dolan is a poet and editor. She holds an M.A. in English & American Literature from NYU, and an M.F.A in Poetry from NYU, where she was a Starworks Creative Writing Fellow. She’s taught writing at The King’s College and NYU. Linda’s work appears in The Grief Diaries, Roanoke Review, and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine, and she’s a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. Her work combines poetry with photography, interview, and received speech as she seeks to portray histories of medicine and the sick body amongst daily life.