Night Shift

Let’s think about how to make this happen, you said.
Near midnight and you were suddenly thirsty.
The nurse said the thirst would go away
once your body acclimated to the TPN drip,
but it never really did. And this night,
the desire for something real
took hold.

We thought to send your son,
but he’d already had a few beers.
It was snowing hard, and he was afraid to drive.
But I think, he was just afraid. Where would the freezie pop go?
The tumor blocked all egress, the size of a baseball, lodged in the wall
Of your stomach, when found the previous month.
I kissed both of your heads when I left.

I tried the mom and pop gas station, then the 7-eleven.
No freezie pops. Wrong season, the cashier explained.
I caved and tunneled to the grocery store, on the other side of town
eyes stinging in the halogen glow of the store’s frozen foods:
the luxury of Lemon Lime, Tropical Breeze, Berry Punch, knowing
to avoid anything red; no way to predict if the red tinge
in the urine or vomit was ice or blood.
I bought orange and coconut pops in a 100 count box,
praying you’d eat them all.

When I returned, snowy & cold, dripping boots on the kitchen floor,
your son sheepishly disappeared, another beer in his pocket.
You grinned like a carny, sly and greedy, and kept me up all night
under the stadium lights of memory, recalling fla-vor-ice, swedish fish
and the pizza our father would buy at the bottom of the third.
Summers of dirt and chalk and talking smack, we caught pop flies,
stole home plate. The freezie melted in your hand.

Within the week, your children, barely adults,
scattered your ashes on the frozen ball field where
you had coached your son’s little league team.
I’m in the bleachers, mouth full of line chalk, cleat in the gut.
No longer anyone’s little sister.