Father’s Stroke

I guess it took almost dying,
leg dragging behind you,
but we finally understand each other.
You were fine one second
and then, you simply weren’t.
That’s something I understand:
Going to bed normal, waking up
with the sky green, grass blue,
plants dangling from the air,
roots embedded in clouds,
water creeping up from the ground
in a confused sort of rain that anchors
you down like a cement block.
I know what it’s like to be thrown
in the lake, and what it feels like to sink.
I know what it’s like when words
scramble away like a mouse caught
in the light switched on at three AM.
I know what it feels to wonder
when your body will get better,
but also when it will attack you all over again.
It’s what our bodies do, you know?
They aren’t so different, the way words
slip away into the distance like talking
to someone over a staticky phone,
seeing faces through dirty windowpanes.
Both our bodies send misfiring neurons
to nerves that spiral out like a rock
shattering glass, making limbs useless.
We both need sleep like an angry toddler,
but our bodies ache and strain against
the brain waves causing no rejuvenation.
We wake feeling like we did battle
all through the night, and we want
to place our weapons down and wither
into a dreamless sleep where our bodies
don’t struggle with routine rotations.
You see, I understand you better
than I understand myself.
I know the fear. The way it cinches
up your throat and constricts your blood flow.
For you it took a stroke, but I’ve been here
for years waiting on unfortunate company.
You never understood what it was like for me
to be young and sick, or sick, period.
An imposition, a bother, a you’re-not-like-most-
teenagers child that couldn’t be normal
like you would have preferred. I believe
you wanted me to be faking, easier,
less fragile and costly, but here you are,
walking the goddamn path you thought
I chose. It’s bumpy, isn’t it?
Not the ride you signed up for
on that motorcycle you can barely ride now.
After all, there has always been resentment
holding us apart like you and mom.
That changed for you when you fumbled
out her name as if we are the same person,
not just similar. You said,
you are so much like your mother,
but it was different this time.
The way you said her name smelled
of lilac and vanilla, not the aroma
of burnt toast over another
breakfast spent arguing without words.
Nothing left but tense silence to fill
the void as your big rig pulled out
of the old gravel driveway, leaving
ruts to be filled in by mom.

Jenna Neece is an Oklahoma native. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and is working on her MFA in Poetry Writing at Oklahoma State University. She works as a GTA for Oklahoma State University English Department, is PR and Fundraising Assistant Director for the OSU Writing Center, and in August 2016 she was a featured poet on featuredpoet.com. Recently, Jenna has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review and Quail Bell Magazine.

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