Proof of Life – Betsy Mars


Through the chorus of beeps and bangs
my body sang – every bit of skin 
and flesh resisting the restraint –
the draw of the machine
imaging my insides 
like Superman I lay, face down
in a blue hospital gown 
instead of cape, dozing,
and dreamt of a girl
flashing engagement rings.

Jewelry-free I felt a quiver 
in my muscles mimicking
her proud wave, her tender 
hand. And then another scene:
on the monkey bars, 
a child swings, 
followed by an actual monkey, 
leathery palm open —
a reach, a desire to grasp 
coursed through me 
and I loosened my grip 
on the dream, breathed,
muffled a scream.

ICU Daydreams

The tobacco notes on my mind’s tongue
cling yellow, staining even the holes 
in its weave sticky with tar and regret. 

Her heart beats steady 
but her mind is stuck in the past,
in its groove of morphine-addled dreaming,
and will it ever emerge? Will she stand 

again, unsteady, and her hands – 
what will they do with no occupation – 
minus the flicking of cigarette ashes 
into small glass trays? 

Lipstick lingers on the filtered ends,
a net the toxins slipped through,
to tumor her lungs twice 
& now tackle her gray matter. 

My mother, my mater, 
my sometimes foe in filial combat. 
Now the roles flip-flop, 
and flop again as she lies in wait 

for what God & modern medicine can provide, 
while he, my son, in utero, is burdened 
with the byproducts of cortisol, nature, 
nurture, history, and soul.

Forbidden Fruit

Today I rode my headache a hundred miles
to find myself at 8 with a mango in the bathtub, 
juice dribbling down my chin, coarse hair 
stuck in my teeth –  my father nearby
joyous with the indulgence.
I promise to come out of here alive.

I’m ashamed of the shame 
I have wrought upon my children,
my son washing his hands 
sticky with juice, over and over,
the water running hot in the sink.

His hands are reddened, all fruit
scoured away. I can’t find a way 
to bring him to the table,
to peel away the skin,
quarter the orange flesh, 
and score it, fold each section back 
so each square protrudes, inviting tooth
and tongue, cutting loose.

The mess is contained, washed away
the pit remains, gnawed to the bone. 
I know in the end none of this matters.

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Find out more about Betsy Mars

Betsy Mars

Betsy Mars is a poet, educator, animal lover, mother, and traveler. Her work has been published by the Rise Up Review, Silver Birch, Gnarled Oak, The Ekphrastic Review, and in the California Quarterly journal, among others, as well as in a number of anthologies.

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