A VIRGIN OF SORTS
Up to this moment you could call me a virgin,
but now, here I am, applesauce on spoon,
my first time feeding an adult.
I want the mouth to be my grandson’s,
but it’s not; it’s hers. I am fifty-eight,
she almost eighty, confined to a bed in the hospital.
In and out with the spoon till the sauce is all gone—
along with my innocence: I have crossed a new line.
But it’s only first base. I stand close,
touch, but don’t go all the way—
to washing, combing, massaging.
I could suction phlegm, like my sister-in-law does.
Could help the nurse clean her
when she soils the sheet,
but I leave the room blushing
or wait behind a curtain,
withholding, abstaining: a virgin after all.
But I smile and pretend . . . pretend I don’t see
the tubes, the breathing hole, the bag of urine
hanging between us. Pretend I’m at ease
with blood and secretions; with a body breaking down,
needing, depending. I fake pleasure,
as in happy to be here. Fake love, sorrow,
empathy, fear—until there’s nothing left
to fake. Just to feed. Tend. Be
with my mother-in-law.
Ms. Lori Levy has had her poems published in numerous literary journals, both print and online, and in medical and medical humanities journals, such as JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Ars Medica, Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine, The Examined Life Journal, and The Pharos. She lives with her extended family in Los Angeles, CA.