She arrives late frail and with pain dimming
her usually vivacious face.
With thin white and shaking fingers, she traces
the map of her pain. Pain makes roads
up and down her arm. She knows each one,
knows the roads of nerve and muscle.
Carefully she explains the destination
of each curving and stubborn road.
Still she tries to understand the metaphor
of this day. Leaning in toward me,
she strives to understand detritus
and how another poet uses the leavings
of insects to describe pain’s crawl from shoulder
to elbow to wrist bone. Puzzlement shows
on her movable face and still she tries.
Slowly my brain sifts her situation.
The pain won’t let her write
so I take up pen and paper.
Her speech is quick and feather light.
I try to write her map of pain.
I ask her to sign her name.
Determined she pushes her damaged arm
and shoulder to write. With tremulous fingers
she writes the faith that keeps her going.
At the end she leans her body towards
the man who now shares her love.
She stands, grasps the handles of his wheelchair
and whispers plans of where they’ll go.
A tumor hides in his brain, seeks
hiding places in bone and tissue.
Radiation burns track its outline
up and down his body.
This love arrived late and they now travel
wherever it leads them. Leaning one
into the other they face toward
whatever joy and sorrow is theirs to share.
Janice Eskridge © 2014