Friday, June 19, 2020

Lory Bedikian's contribution to our Call for Poems on the topic of epidemics, illness, medicine, death and healing

Lory Bedikian of Tujunga, CA, USA, has shared these poems  APP thanks her.

Sestina, as my mother cooks

by Lory Bedikian

I tell her it’s a problem of the nerve.
She doesn’t look up, but eases a scar
on each small olive, making room
for the marinade to soak in. Not one eye
blinks as she does this. Like before, I’m pretty
sure that this is my cue to leave.

But I think back, when she had to leave
Aleppo with my father, each good-bye plucking a nerve,
hitting notes against her chest—quite pretty
for a plainly dressed Protestant. Like a scar
they mark the bible with this date. One eye
on the future, they fly and find a one-room

apartment in New York. Now, my mother acts as if this room
holds only her. She mumbles there’s nothing wrong, just leave
the past alone and you’ll be fine. I lunge my twitching eye
toward her. But she doesn’t have the nerve
to look. I wonder how she handles the brush of scar
below her abdomen, where I entered the world, pretty

different than most. She asks me to put on something pretty
for once. The L.A. noon heat rises. I pace the room
thinking of how to tell this woman of the scar
tissue the doctor found; how I tried to leave
the office smiling, grateful it wasn’t worse, just a nerve
disorder, its radar placed in the sphere of an eye.

After so many years, she still gives me the eye
over. What I say next is anything but pretty:
Has she ever thought each cell, each nerve
of my body is conspiring in rebellion to the room
we’ve always held between us? She says she must leave
for work, she’s late. My fingers shake. I say another scar

will form from this—like each scar
you brought across the Atlantic. I feel as small as the eye
of a needle. A cutting board, an empty sink is what we leave
behind us. She walks ahead, down the hall. I stop. Pretty
soon she’ll reappear. In this house I have no room
left, so I grab my keys, knowing it’s enough that I’ve struck this nerve.

This is how she survives, making sure to leave the house looking pretty.
Not one scar visible to the eye. She doesn’t question this world, how it has
the nerve to move us from room to room, so far from where we started.

This poem was published in The Best American Poetry 2019 edition.

Partial Tubectomy Revisited

             There are many reasons why a woman falls
      to the floor. An optimist surely imagines
lovemaking, or the uncontrollable writhing

             of modern dance that sweeps across the stage,
      not a harsh plunge onto hardwood, the tumble
so sudden one thinks the old furniture

             has slipped, crashed, cracked the tile.
      Let’s work backward. She is lying there
screaming her husband’s name. The right

             tube gave up, gave out
      like an old rubber tire does after much
wear. All it needed was a nail. All it took

             was an embryo to get stuck along its path,
      the pressure unbearable, and the day before
no increased human chorionic gonadotropin,

             though twenty days of bleeding while
      going back and forth to the hardware store
to mend the fixer-upper, same age as her,

             fallen siding, withered eaves,
      should have been the obvious sign.
So, she is lying there and the husband

             rushes her to the emergency room
      and she does not die as the doctor
said she would have had she not signed

             the paperwork. When she wakes
      she discovers the tube is gone,
couldn’t be saved. On the television

             an old black and white with wagons,
      women in ankle-length skirts, poke
bonnets almost like a trap for hair,

             boots full of dust, their hands rough
      as pumice stone. And if these
settlers fell to the floor, she wonders,

             who would come, who would hear them
      and realize those long aprons had become
flags fluttering at the cabin door?

This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2018.

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