"Technician"- Zach Mitcham



"Technician"- Zach Mitcham

 

Willa’s son died of a heart attack

on a Los Angeles highway two years ago,

same age as me. She's going next week

to his grave in St. Louis, says she'll move soon

to be near him. "Nobody understands that,"

she tells me before bed, handing me wires

to drop down my sweatpants, that odd

intimacy of clinics. I think of a poem

I could only bear to skim, a woman

eulogizing her son, a death star too bright

for my eyes. I'm quick to the remote

when some toddler is walking alone

on the edge of a pool, or mortally fevered

in obvious plot point. I turn away, wanting

my own little faces looking back, breathing

boy noises for trucks, or Christmas songs

still new. But Willa has introduced her lost son

like a shiver she can't hold back. I'm two eyes

and a body, potential warmth. I tell her

there's no greater pain, my words empty.

We move on and I learn that she was a nurse

in Saudi Arabia for seven years. She offers

some Arabic and we talk of foreign food,

religion, race, her youth in Mississippi

in the early 60s. Before long, I'm wired up

for the sleep study bed. She brings me

another blanket and a fan for white noise.

The sensor keeps falling from my nose,

and I'm woken by this woman

tending to me with tape. She watches me

from the control room, long hours of a body

fighting with oxygen, this bulb of me flickering

light, dark, light — my snores breaking

her hours of silence. I fill out the morning survey

with no mention of mother and son,

but that's all I can think about.
 
 
Zach Mitcham is tonight's featured reader at Athens Word of Mouth. Open mic sign-up is at 7 pm and readings begin at 8 pm, upstairs at The Globe, corner of Clayton and Lumpkin Streets in downtown Athens.

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