Ann E. Wallace

Holding

The doctor helped me, holding out her arm.
You’ve been put through the wringer today
haven’t you?

The wringer, yes,
Sapped, squeezed, wrung dry.

She knew, she had watched as the life force
had spun out of me with each test.

But what of you?
You, the man I trusted, of whom I asked the simple favor
to accompany me to the hospital, to take me home after.

You offered the service begrudgingly,
turning your back on my fear,
hoping a friend might release you from the duty
of one who loves.

You watched me leave for the testing chambers
resolved not to offer more than was required.

You sat and waited, complaining on Facebook
of music in the hospital café that made your head ache,

while I was tossed off balance on a shifting platform.
My ears shot through with air, a camera attached to my covered eye,
my body spun in a chair within a darkened chamber
designed to disrupt equilibrium.

Measuring vertigo by sending me whirling,
the doctor searched for the source.

As you waited,
my trust in the world
spun loose.

But you, on your computer, complaining of music that jarred your senses,
could not see that the shaking me who awaited your return
bore no resemblance to the me you had said goodbye to
just two, three long hours before.

I had been through the wringer,
Slumped, nauseated, aching.

You offered all you were willing to offer –
your arm.

Offered out of kindness, but couldn’t you see
though you were not there
that an arm crooked at the elbow must be held?

Too much for me who had held on, who had spun loose
Holding strong.

An arm held differently,
an arm embracing,
would have provided refuge.
An arm encircling
would have released the wailing.

An arm embracing would have held
me.

***

Ann E. Wallace is a professor of English at New Jersey City University, and her writing, both scholarly and creative, interrogates how we bear witness to trauma, including illness, and how community forms and transmits memories of such experiences. Her work has recently appeared in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, Intima, WordGathering, Mothers Always Write, and Coldnoon.

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