Karen Holmberg


The woman on the other side
of emergency’s curtain groaned
my babies my babies
as a specially muffled drone imparted
the bad news, and I saw beyond the hem
the blunt hands of her feet
clinging and rubbing, grey heels
cracked like neglected dough, ankles
traversed by puffy rivers, while
on our side with tender precision
the doctor dipped the curved needle
to close the curtain on
my toddler’s skull, setting to the side
tremulous sympathy
as the small body called out urgently
for repair. For my love could not
help it. When I’d raised
the corner of the towel limp
and leaden with her blood and saw
gold seed-pearls of fat, and beneath them
the clean-sheared edges of her meat
opening on the bluish skull, gleaming
and plastic, my body urged me
to cover the wound’s lips
with my lips flesh
of my flesh
as if I could be
a human suture beyond the needs
of food or water, speech or air.
Her face was draped and cross-
draped in blue. I had access only to
one fixed and anxious eye, so I whispered
into its dark unfurnished room
our next day’s trip to my childhood
home, setting afloat
a boat with a green and yellow sail, reaching
her hand into leaves
for the peaches she could pick
and eat.
Where is this paradise
our doctor murmured while she lay
a track with filament so fine
the wrists revolving, throwing loops
for glinting tools to shoot through,
seemed pure pantomime. And yet
the wound drew closed
as I watched, obeying those intricate
continuous knots.

Karen Holmberg
“Sutures” first appeared in The Healing Muse, vol. 7. no 1, 2007.