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Common Needs

December 9, 2009 3 comments

by Robin Chapman

for Jim Martyn

My friend with ALS has moved to hospice.
Rick Steve’s tours of Europe streaming
on the Mac, a mouse he can click with a toe.
cough machine at the ready, biPap mask
for extra breath, for sleep, a meal pureed
to soup consistency. Time, still,
for visits, paying taxes, but I’m looking
up communication boards for the time
when speech goes too — this one,
pared to thirty-three commands —

may there be thirty-three angels for Jim,
wings color-coded, jerseys numbered,
to be called in for specialty plays —
moisten mouth, tighten mask,
move my thumbs, bring bed bath,
I’m hot, I’m cold;
angels of breathing,
angels of cough, angels of settling the pillow
under his head, his shoulders, his knees;
angels bearing the bedpan, diapers,
the urinal; and send the angel of attention
to watch his eyes, fixed on number 33,
summoning the angel of the call switch
to watch over sleep.

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Robin Chapman studied the acquisition of speech acts by children for forty years, and now writes poetry. Abundance, winner of the Cider Press Review Editors’ Award, is her newest book.

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