Installment 2 of poems from a life lived backwards:
A radical nephrectomy is the name
of the procedure. “We’ll make sure
the tumor is intact, and the rest
is plumbing.” This was meant
to reassure. The surgeon read the list
of possible complications. With any
operation, there is always risk.
A small chance of a severe reaction
to transfusions or anesthesia. “We’ll
remove the kidney, but we won’t know
what else is going on until
we get in. We may need to take
a length of bowel, some liver, anything
that looks suspicious.” They’ll run a line
into your heart, for later, for the drugs.
This too has its risk.
I am near fainting at what we must do
to try to save you. I lay down
on the stiff sheets of a hallway gurney
as the surgeon’s kind voice continues.
There is no way to stop this, no
other way to keep you safe. You lay
fevered and sleeping with your mother
across the room. She cannot hear
this conversation. She could not
stop this either.
The surgeon finishes the list,
holds out the clipboard and the pen.
He is waiting for consent.