Ellyn Lichvar


The discarded bandage reveals
something far longer than expected

and I do want to say something. I do.
The IV bags hang near my mother’s head

filling her up. Down the hall babies
enter elevators, strapped tight,

seats hanging from father’s forearms.
This entire hospital smells so empty.

When my son was three days old the tubes
leaving his body looked like noodles

on a tiny pink plate. Take a picture,
she’d said, he may want to see it, and now

I can’t stop. Her swollen body is so weak
she won’t remember much at all.

It was like this when she saw me seeing
him; she forgot to speak like a mother.

I sat covered in tears and afterbirth
and she just left the room.

But once she rubbed my feet for two
long hours and so now I do hers. The skin

on her legs is not skin anymore, thick,
sloughed between my damp fingers,

and her eyes aren’t even open.
Down the hall babies, too, lay flat on their backs.

What month will it be when we finally remember
what we were in the middle of saying?

There are so many questions
I’m too afraid to answer. Not like when babies

cry and we just know how to stop it.
I can’t explain it any more than that.


Today in the yard, he says
he wants me to go back inside.
He’d like to place the damp
gray stones he found
on our walk, the leaves,
the seedpods cracked open
wide like bird mouths, along
the side of the house by himself.
It’s important. Hands overflowing,
he opens the back gate
and he does it. Purposeful
line, riches resting in their places,
protection. He looks
at me through the window
to say he’s finished and I am
a wine bottle from last night’s
dinner, a nap after sex,
an eyes-closed exhalation, finally
emptied, as all mothers empty.


Ellyn Lichvar is the assistant managing editor of The Louisville Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Whiskey Island, Parcel, A Narrow Fellow, and elsewhere.