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          By P. Michael Mastrofrancesco

          A tumor in your right lung, no bigger
          than a child’s fist, suffocates you

          slowly. No more full-throttled breathing,
          the constant in and out of cigarette smoke, streams
          of white air you blew into rings upon request; its nicotine--

          burn scenting drapes, staining walls, your fingernails.
          An oxygen tank stands beside your bed; its erratic
          alarm beeps false alerts, keeps us at the ready. You
          sleep through conversations with visitors, wake
          for a feeding, a sip of tea and chip of cracker, never
          make it to the bathroom without aid, agree to diapers
          when standing makes you dizzy.

          Pillow and mattress swallow you whole, only
          your foot pokes above horizontal. Not too long ago
          you held me in a headlock, wrestled
          me to the floor. Gonna give? Gonna
          give? You stood me back-to-back to see how tall
          I had grown. Over time your head inched
          down my vertebrate marking my growth
          and your shrinking.

          You hope to reunite with the daughter who
          died not too long ago, the one you nursed but couldn’t
          keep alive. You lift your head
          off the pillow as you exhale, inching
          your way skyward. I look about the room filled
          with dozens of family photographs, search for a sewing
          kit, a needle and thread, some safety pins
          and wire to sew your nightgown to the mattress, keep you
          here, do as you taught me, never give up.

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Document last modified on: 01/06/2007

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