Monday, September 29, 2008

As If You Always Will ~ 1992

“Over twenty-five operations and losing my sight, this scares me most. I keep touching it. I can’t believe it will be gone tomorrow. I keep telling myself God must have a plan.”
— K. E. Hansen

Night before surgery, you tell me you’re scared,
really scared. Through four years’
friendship and more health scares
than I can count, I’ve never heard
you say this.

In the Christmas photo you sent
this year, you frolic
with your guide dog on the beach.
Clad in a white tank top and rolled-up jeans,
you stand balanced
in the surf, knees bent, back arched,
arm poised to throw
a stick. Your honey-colored hair streams
in the wind, water rushes round toned,
tanned calves. Below the photo, your words,
“Lover of life, come dance with me.”

Days after surgery, you’re bantering
already, asking your nurse,
“Could you check with the doctors
to see if hair is going to grow
out of my stump
and when I can shave

Below the knee, your right leg
gone, thick cover of bandages crisscrossing
the amputation site.
Intense pain
comes and goes.
You swear
you’re going to dance
again. Soon.
In your red pumps.

You have to settle
for black boots.
Against doctors’ wishes,
you’re dancing months
later, a benefit you’ve organized.
Doctors warn: injure remaining ankle,
may lose that foot, too,
skin so slow to heal,
steroid-brittle bones
caving in.

But tonight,
swaying to Kenny Loggins
in your boyfriend’s arms,
prosthetic leg barely noticeable beneath
black lace stockings,
pain of the last months
hidden in your laughter,
you draw all eyes in the room,
dancing lightly, naturally, blissfully,
as if you always will.