Jan/Feb 2004 Poetry

The Rattling

by Judy Goodwin


The Rattling

On the clothesline step
stands a woman laughing,
brunette, pedal pushers,
and a sharp white day;
a speck,
as seen from the beach,
where my brother chases clams
racing and digging
after each tiny spout. Official knots
tie a bag of shells to his belt
where they rattle

like cafe clips thrown
along a hospital rod.
Behind the curtain a man
is dying. His family
is instructed to count
between breaths. We do this silently
while his chest heaves
like the winter sea

and storm
snapping hail and salt against the glass.
Our parents murmer in silhouette
pressed to the window.
The ocean is red and glows
on their faces, touching the tip
of my mother's cigarette.
She turns

to lead me from her room
down long corridors
and a yellow line;
pulling her rattling trailer,
bags and
tubes containing intimate fluids.
Outside we join the crowd.
Everyone wears blue and
some degree of bandage,
blood and stain.
"Aren't you going to have a smoke?"
she nudges me.
My hands

cup her flame.


Previous Piece Next Piece