"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.