Carl Adamshick

Before I changed my mother

for the first time

she asked me to call the pharmacy

thinking the woman

always dressed in the store’s dark

blue could come spare us.

I said: Ma we knew this was coming.

Then call Kim, she says,

but her friend Kim is wearing

an apron and walking circles

in a restaurant with a coffee pot

and won’t be able to help

with the necessaries.

Kim is all of us—

living with our own concerns,

conquered by adulthood,

love playing the part

of a winter coat lost

in the immensity. Kim

and the woman who puts

the pills in the bottle,

and all my old high-school

friends working, unable to stay

late around the bonfire. The nurses

had schedules and uniforms.

My mother’s bed was in the center

of the living room. Her morphine,

a viscous blue liquid I dropped

on her tongue. In the evenings,

Billie Holiday eased herself

out of the speakers and then sat

her voice down quietly

in the lamplight. I wanted

the nurses, regardless

of gender or age, to hold me

in the dark, to lie with me

on a bed of forgetfulness.

Many of them said:

It’s okay. She did it for you,

now you can return the favor.

It’s the same. But one nurse said:

It is not the same.

Found In Volume 45, No. 01
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  • Carl Adamshick
Carl Adamshick
About the Author

Carl Adamshick is the author of Curses and Wishes, which won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and Saint Friend, published by McSweeney’s. He is a founder and editor at Tavern Books, a non-profit press dedicated to poetry and the preservation of books.