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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.