Updated: Apr 21, 2022
By Robin Kinzer
Her fingers are slithering through the long lilac snakes
of my braided hair, when they begin to quiver. She goes still
for a second. Her hands spasm and she grips the back
of my neck. Her skin, damp and clammy against mine.
I swing to face her as soon as I realize what’s happening.
She looks like a wax statue: frozen, mute. Pallid.
Her skin is two shades whiter than usual.
Her knuckles, as pale as the bones beneath them.
I know the routine by now. She does not trust herself to speak
but wants to be touched. Wants one firm hand to rest
at the base of her spine. Does not want to be pulled close.
She needs human contact, but more than one hand is too much.
Her breath rattles on the inhale and wheezes, ragged, on the exhale.
She swings her eyes to the dresser, focusing on a small orange bottle
filled with tiny blue pills. I know she wants to avoid the emergency
room, know sirens and starched coats have not gone well for her
in the past. I keep my right hand anchored steadily at the base
of her tightening spine, and reach for the medicine with the left.
Her cheeks are marbled with tears now, and the wheeze of her breath
sounds like a teakettle about to boil over. I pry open the pill bottle.
She sticks out her tongue. I place one small blue circle on its surface,
where she will let it dissolve. In thirty minutes, it will be much easier
for her to breathe. Until then, I keep my hand at the small of her back,
and match my breath to hers. We listen to the sound of falling rain.
Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet. She was once a communist beaver in a PBS documentary. She’s now an MFA candidate at University of Baltimore. Robin has poems recently published, or shortly forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, Wrongdoing Magazine, Fifth Wheel Press, Gutslut Press, and others. She loves glitter, Ferris wheels, and waterfalls. She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer.
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