You are once again rifling
the sixth floor supply cabinet.
Bethesda Naval Hospital
gyn/onc ward. Late, too late to watch
the babies sleep three floors down.
Your mother breathes with assistance
in a single room across the hall,
warm apparatus she needed to give rise to you
long since scooped from her abdomen
along with other suspect tissue
here and there,
her body’s job focused now
on moving fluid through her heart;
blood to her brain lets her raise her eyebrows
when you lean across the rail
and smooth her forehead.
Let her sleep, your brother tells you
as he dials the room phone.
Things seem pretty stable here, he tells his wife,
See you soon. What you have
is this supply closet:
pink square plastic saline vials
for flushing the port at her neck,
good too to carry in your backpack,
for contacts; syringes
(for making a fine bead of jade glue),
silk suture thread (for sewing signatures).
You can do nothing to slow the thicken-
ing of blood in her urine
as her systems recede, how it pools
like warm wax in the bedside gauge,
but this packet of gauze, you can unfold it
and stretch it thin over bookboard.
You’ve adopted a striped hospital robe as yours.
No one seems to care. The nurses cluster
at their station and the ward is quiet. You listen
for them, but they’re used to your being here
and you know where the apple juice is
so you’re no trouble. You pocket
some surgical tape for gift wrap.
Not an equal trade for your mother,
but it’s something. You think you know
the inventory by now, but here’s a new low drawer
to investigate before padding in these
disposable foam slippers back
to the cot in her room to sleep.
What are these cool white
waffle weave cloths, each folded
into its own cellophane bag?
(good for drawing?) But wait,
why is this one closed at both ends?
Why this long zipper?
Why this zipper the length
of your mother’s body?
“Looted” is from Mr. Worthington’s Beautiful Experiments on Splashes (New Michigan Press, 2010).