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Lyle Clears My Throat

       Boone County, Kentucky


Fair warning: I gotta roll my mother
every half hour or so to curb bedsores,
but I wanna hear this story. Just keep
it down cause she's asleep and I need
the door cracked to hear her heart.
Well, not her heart. The monitor is what
I listen to. It's been a year this June.
I come upstairs and found her on the floor,
drove her to local before they coptered us
to the U. Let me roll her quick and you
can start your story which I'm dying
to hear. Where we're at now, she can't lift
her own arm, but if you lift it to start with
she can ease it back down real slow,
controlling the speed and choosing
where it lands, you know? They got her
on a food tube and all that, machines
tracking her heart and lungs, the works.
She's basically comatose, but she can shake
her head for no and you'd be surprised
how much power that gives you.
They had her hooked up to this thing—
I don't know what you call it—a shock
treatment kind of thing they hoped
would give her back her speech. But when
they explained all this she shook her head.
Doc said shake once for yes and four for no.
If the math wasn't happening I coulda
called the shots, but you know damn well
that head shook exactly four times.
So they sent us home. Somehow she bosses
me around with that headshake, gets across
every little message. And it's weird,
I've started talking. Used to be as quiet
as a mule, but with her gone mute I feel
it's my duty to put something in the air.
And now I can't seem to shut up.
I tell her every little thing, even tell her
what I'm doing while I'm doing it,
which I never used to do. But enough of me
clearing your throat. Just let me roll her
once more—No, that's mighty kind of you,
but I'd just as soon roll her myself,
plus I get a decent workout doing it.
Friends ask me how I'm holding up.
That's what they say: How you holding up?
But what they mean to say is this:
How's tending a vegetable that don't grow?
Well, to buzzcut the truth, this thing beat
the Jesus right out of me. If there's a god
and he's listening right now I'm nothin
short of ashamed. I used to damn to hell
people like me. But when you lived
what I lived and seen what I seen
happen to who it happened to, there just aint
nothin in it. No order. No holiness.
And don't sit there eyeballing me like maybe
the Lord's breaking earth to sow seeds.
Don't tell me there's a larger purpose.
I won't hear it. I won't listen to another word.


Anders Carlson-Wee

The Sewanee Review

Summer 2017


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