Second Round
Lynn McGee
The stroke team, fierce as aliens in their masks 
and harsh lights, roll you back to your room, 
sitting high in your bed and flashing 
a victory smile, bag of magic dripping 
into your veins, danger dissolving 
like falling stars. 

My hero, you call out to the neurologist, 
Close call, he chimes in, tapping your feet, 
and then, Lift your right arm—No, 
your other right arm, his face going stern 
when you can't say your name—then time 
slows. The room clears. Your mother 
arrives, a furious crow, yelling down 
the hall at me, Go home! You're not 
family! Go home! and you twist 
your face, a curtain away.

That night I sit by your bed, repeating, 
Your body is already remembering itself, 
and you shake your head, No, finally mouthing, 
I'll try, as light reflects off the East River, 
saturating the room.

And you did try, and got back your words 
and your sardonic eyebrow, and pressed your feet 
against the therapist's hands. Friends spoon-fed you 
cranberry juice and crushed ice. Your narrow body 
cramped one long night, and you gripped my hand 
as the clock moved its heavy arms. 

Then surgeons took over, and sewed a pump 
into your chest. A machine forced your breath 
and they closed ranks around you.

I see you at the stove, stirring black beans and corn, 
hands fragrant with basil.

I see your son—feet big, arms wild—clattering 
down the stairs, to hug me goodbye. 

I see you smiling in your old way, tubes rooted 
in your arm: Life's too short for bullshit; 
Get the spare parts and fix me—and I hold 
like a small flame, your face against white pillows: 
Hey baby, it's our second round.
Lynn McGee's poems have recently appeared in The Same, The American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Hawai'i Review and elsewhere. Her manuscript, Wheel of Ice, was a nominee for the McGovern Prize, and earlier poems were published in the Ontario Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Sun and other magazines. Her chapbook Bonanza won the Hudson Valley Writer's Center/Slapering Hol Press manuscript contest, and she earned an MFA in Poetry at Columbia University. Today, Lynn is a public affairs writer and lives in Brooklyn.

more by Lynn McGee:
I Leave You Listed