Boundaries

Theresa shakes her head
in answer to my every question,
unable to name the year, the day,

the hospital where we sit together
as I attempt to test her awareness
which is floating, floating elsewhere,

encapsulated in a space
where she alone lives, alarmed
by squeak of chair, distant cough, piercing

a consciousness without filter,
a newborn trapped in startle-response
like the infant she held in her arms

then left behind, unable to bear
the smallest tasks of mothering—
a comforting breast, a bottle staying

in her grasp. I don’t ask about the infant
she abandoned, not wanting to intrude
on her world but there’s no keeping her out

of mine, her splintered essence clings
to me, shadows me home where I sit
in a darkened room, trying to bundle myself

back into my own skin, zip it up tight,
prepare myself for the following day
when I will sit with Sally,

who tried to leap from a plane
into the sky, wondering how it would be
to float like an angel, to fly.


Elizabeth Burk is a psychologist who currently divides her time between a practice and family in New York and a husband and home in southwest Louisiana. Her two chapbooks, Learning to Love Louisiana and Louisiana Purchase were both published by Yellow Flag Press. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Calyx, Southern Poetry Anthology, About Place, Earth’s Daughters, Red Wheelbarrow, Naugatuck River Review and a variety of other journals and anthologies. Her work has been read on public radio, KRVS, Lafayette, La, and performed at venues in New York and Louisiana.


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