381: excerpt from 13th Balloon

381: excerpt from 13th Balloon

381: excerpt from 13th Balloon

excerpt from 13th Balloon
by Mark Bibbins

In case what Yoko Ono said is true
           that to name one’s enemy in one’s art
           injures the art more than the enemy
I won’t tell you who
is president now
           I forget the name of the woman
who gave you acupuncture but not
of your ex-lover who    mornings
toward the end    washed you
when you could no longer walk
to the bathroom
We argued over which of us
would give you your sponge bath
each morning       I ended up
able to bear it once

I forgot who brought
to your hospital room
a single gardenia blossom
because you loved Billie Holiday
but I haven’t forgotten the name
of the man who at the party after
the reception after your memorial
flung himself into a fit of wailing
next to the margarita machine
           He wailed out of grief over you
and because as we would learn
but did not yet know
           he had it too
For years I would say magnolia
when I meant gardenia
and would flinch whenever I smelled one
                      all sweetness and rot

How many thousands
of stories like yours
have been told
and forgotten      how many
stories of lovingly durable nurses
           of hospital sheets    of IV tubes
           dripping saline and morphine
How many stories of drugs
that would haul you
along in their wake for a while
but finally
let you sink      How many versions
of your scrotum
becoming so swollen
that the only thing I could think of
as I dabbed it one morning
with a washcloth
was a grapefruit
then couldn’t eat grapefruit for years

///

Excerpt from "13th Balloon," by Mark Bibbins, from 13TH BALLOON by Mark Bibbins, copyright © 2020 Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.