He bleeds so easily now.
The smallest cut will seep
like the Cumberland River below
as dark bruising spreads beneath
his loosened skin.
The river is forty foot low this year
because the damn is cracked
and repairs are estimated to take five years.
The path down to the dock is steep
and rocky slate shifts beneath our feet
but he will fall
before he lets me hold his elbow.
There is a line between
dignity and helplessness –
his words “not helpless” –
as if any aid implies
But perhaps he knows something I don’t.
How slippery the slope
and this is how he avoids
a Humpty Dumpty tumble –
I wash away the blood, clean the cuts
before covering them
with antibiotic cream and bandage
which must be replaced again
and again like a finger in the dike.
I run his shirt under cold water
so the blood won’t stain
and it runs red down
the drain, which flows into the septic
I’ve been told might overflow,
so many liquids threatening
like the darkest rain clouds outside
and oh how I used to be afraid of
thunder and lightning.
If I could wash away one thing
I would erase all trace of worry
from his mind
so he would be at ease and know
the letting go is fine,
his daughter strong enough
to catch, to hold
to release when it is time.
– Debra Parmley
Published in Twilight Dips.