by Paige Melin

the night my sister called me from the hospital

I hadn’t eaten dinner
was still at work
was ignoring a presentation and
almost ignored her call –
but didn’t, her fear-choked voice
croaking over space to tell me
beg me
to come.

the night my sister called me from the hospital
I hadn’t been home in weeks – home
as in that ambiguous space between where
you lay your head down and where
the people you love are waiting;
home
as in that phone call you’d known
your whole life you would get.

It was my mother.
Another one too many
another unresponsive glaze
another alcohol heavy haze
and I had known
this would happen because
I’d done the same thing.

The night my sister called me from the hospital
my dad thought my mom was having a stroke.
They rushed her in, anxious,
and my sister called me
tear choked and
I called my brother, trying.
But when the catscans bloodwork reality came in
it was her heart
that almost killed her
not her brain – the way
depression sat deeply
in her chest and alcohol
called heavily to her hurt and
at the same time we all breathed
“thank god”
what we meant was
“my god.”

The night my sister called me from the hospital
I was the only one who went to see my mom
after the truth –
the only one who
had been there,
and only my sister
stayed behind to wait.
And I don’t know what
I expected to find
behind the puke
green walls and the limp
curtains of ERs but
my mother –
ruddy cheeks.
puffy eyes.

The night my sister called me from the hospital
I held my mom as she fell asleep,
as we lay in her bed,
both sobbing,
knees brushing,
telling her
it’s not stupid and
don’t be sorry and
I forgive you and
it’s okay –
and the only way I meant the things
I had to say was because
I’d had to say them to myself
once.

The night my sister called from the hospital
was one of the worst nights of my life but also
the one night I never wanted to end.
I had never gazed so clearly
into my mother’s eyes before
never heard so freely
the hurts and confusion and grief
built up inside of her.
She had never
talked to me like an equal, always like
an inferior and here
we were talking as if
I could save her.

I tried
to save her.
Counselors and therapy
and antidepressants and AA
and arguments and running away
and I
tried.
But I could never make her
want to save herself.

– – – – –

Paige Melin is a poet, editor, & translator from Buffalo, NY. Her book of poetry, Puddles of an Open, was recently published by BlazeVOX [books] (2016), and a chapbook of her poems was published by Buffalo Ochre Papers (2016). She edits the litmag steel bellow (steelbellow.com). @paige_melin

 lspmag has also published Paige’s poem “(untitled).”
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