“Appendectomy” by K. Irene Rieger

I.

I am not she who falls asleep, nor do
I drift to dreamland, no. I’m too inflamed
to fall for it; I curl and clutch and claw
for it, my legs linked ells and ankle-clamped,
my forearms cinched, contorted, clenched, and car-
pal tunnel-tight. I clap at Syncope
With hands that quake with clasping—she: condensed,
compact, hard nut to crack. Hope gleams from gaps
in prayer-palms grasped. Can’t peep—could spook the fick-
le snitch of sleep, nor souse myself—my son
could call me helpless from the hospital.
My son. I wish I were there with him now
that worst has come to worst. But if God’s grant-
ing wishes, I would have him fix him first.

II.

I’m certain that the hospital is where he ought to be— 
My boy’s bile-bloated bowels may have burst and must be mended 
—But though I know it’s toddler talk, I want him here with me. 
 
His sister needs a parent, though I’m rotten company. 
I feed her, then deposit her with Elmo, unattended. 
I’m not a fool; I realize he’s where he ought to be. 
 
I’m haunted by the ghost of an umbilical IV. 
If he were home it’d have to span across two states, suspended. 
Ridiculous, it wouldn’t reach!  I want him here with me. 
 
And though hospital duty’s always been my specialty, 
My husband’s had the shot; I’ve not.  Routines must be amended. 
Yet I can’t shake suspicion that he’s where I ought to be. 
 
My son, who renders tendered kisses now quite dutifully 
Once giggled when I nibbled on his crepe-sweet ears, so when did 
Dad’s noogies beat my nibbles out?  I want him to need me. 
 
My baby boy in pain and all our lives again upended 
And Mommy’s just another organ shown to be appended. 
I know that he’s well cared for in the place he ought to be. 

The mind knows, but the body balks.  I want him here with me.

III.

“Make friends with the problems in your life… Approach them with familiarity rather than dread.” ˗˗ Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Sarah says we should view problems more fondly; 
Mine has a certain symmetric appeal. 
Here is the beauty of Gabriel’s quandary: 
Twice intervention has severed the seal 
Of his soft baby skin.  Now stigmatical lesions 
Prevent the peds surgeons from plying their trade. 
Still these same sweet (because saving!) adhesions 
Mean surgery’s vital and can’t be delayed. 
Fool’s errand: seeking the surgical scholar, 
A very Vizzini her logic won’t stop. 
The cons in each column grow taller and taller 
But always incessantly equal at top. 
Congruent conundrum.  What else can I say? 
My problem’s a beautiful one, anyway.




K. Irene Rieger is Associate Professor of English at Bluefield University in Bluefield, Virginia.  A Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow, she is the First Place winner of the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in Rhyming Poetry.  Her work has appeared in The College English Association Critic, the Journal for the Liberal Arts and SciencesTalking Writing, and MUSE

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