A Mid-Wife Nervous
before dinner, she’s impatient
about ice cream. dentures clunk
when she laughs—nearly chipped
at the Easter vigil during a yawn. so,
her teenage nephew doesn’t make jokes
in public, prays the teeth won’t
at times, she won’t find a bathroom.
others, we find the bathroom a mess.
she rifles the pantry—but this
is why she has a sister-in-law
who keeps her in line, who loves
her husband, who knows why
he brought his Big Sister
her laugh loosens cupboard
hinges, jiggles dishes, and settles
garbage seventy-four years
after a mid-wife Nervous
crossed Grandma’s knees,
trapped her Mid-canal.
she was delivered a child
as quiet as afterbirth.
skin papery and blue as nursery
wall pink. but she was not born
she was made a retard
every time a mother
shortened grocery visits
with her Only daughter
because strangers look
funny and whisper behind
folded sheets of coupons.
she was marooned
in a ward, where each visit
as twin nephews gripped
ten white nail beds and four
eyes clung to a rugless floor,
nurses assured, nobody
wants a creature incapable
of folding laundry.
her laughter is for that.
for staff and institutions, years
bunking beside schizophrenic
paranoia, catatonics, perverts.
she compensates for them with
second helpings, name-calling
can recognize tone despite vocabulary.
one night i drug myself home, a teenage
melodramatic mutant with tentacles of
angst—she held me and never worried why.
that morning I found her on the couch,
she was cradling Grandpa’s Photograph.
a Retard Can cry
with more honesty than a dictionary
and you never expect it and all you
can do is wrap your arms around her
until she wriggles to escape,
hold her until she laughs herself
in a fit, and moseys after her sixty-
two-year-old Baby Brother
who just lost his job to budget,
who will ask her to quit
laughing and she laughs.
tell her cut it out and she laughs.
will call old Little Brother
call him Turd Head again,
slap his shoulder, bump
his hip, slap his shoulder
until He can feel again,
for an instant Mid-Way
and with one affectionate shove
send her duck hips waddling
for balance, squealing Oh Shit!
clutching the doorframe
in mid-fall hysterical—
every Sunday should before
toward her room in a gut-busted
humorous surrender, chanting
failing to repress her talent
to find absolutely nothing hilarious,
though she knows better after being
pinched plenty as Grandma’s
then in the grunting silence
of her bedroom, with a serene
trem ble while guiding a plastic needle
threaded with a vibrant length of yarn
into the grid of her fancy-work,
appear for a concentrated
All Rights Reserved to Mike Barthman