What I Mean When I Say I Hate Hospitals

Hazel in Room 224 stops me, says she knows

I’m not her granddaughter, but loves


me anyway, reaches to lipstick my cheek,

her teeth caked pink, a baby bird mouth


opening and closing as I pass by. Next

door, you think it is Sunday and we are


on an island, your long-dead father in the corner

salmon scales on his fingers and work boots


stiff with sap. Everyone I know knocks

but won’t enter. I’ve buried you a dozen times


this way: smiled at cafeteria cashiers, sorted

through sacks of personal effects, found myself


holding keys with locks that can’t be found.

You’ve been following the path of trappers,


naked in the snow-starred night, sending messages

into space, recording the secret longing of trees.


Everyone I know asks questions I can’t answer,

ushers me toward a westward running torrent


without the comfort of a firm bank. I’ve exhumed

you a hundred times this way: rivers that once


built an empire fall toward the ocean, rust grows

thick and somewhere, somewhere, somewhere


pilings make shadows, stand still as the water rises

because it is all they know to do.

Tiah Lindner Raphael is a writer and obsessive gardener living in Portland, Oregon where she also serves as managing editor for VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions. Her work has been published in CutBank, Paper Nautilus, Rogue Agent, and Rust + Moth among others.