Hospital of Living Things
The August buds of my Chinese hibiscus open
into saucers; vivid scarlet, or marmalade bleeding
to marigold, some parchment white, their throats
kissed with cherry lipstick. I tend their fussy show,
check for aphids, mildew, other blight.
Engorged pistils spring for the sun, and I quiver
stamens in their cups as I brush against them—
meditative, I work. Today, my best friend of 40 years
entered the ICU at Mass General; stroke after stroke,
pneumonia, a serious UTI. It doesn’t look promising.
I’m nearly 1,200 miles away, and broke. We’ve always
looked after one another; her diabetes, my kidneys,
the various bits that break down over time. I remember
her arriving in my hospital room once, and dressing down
a sadistic nurse I’d had, my friend taking over, later rifling
through cabinets to steal medical supplies—gloves, tape—
as I looked on in a morphine-induced haze, impressed
with her audacity. Or the time we rushed to the ER,
her jackknife headache a tumor on her pituitary gland.
Those days, nights by her bedside. We’re medical soul sisters,
we joked, here to assist each other through the tribulations
of health. We’re closer than family. Around me, the garden
follows its strict rules of living and dying. Velvet petals,
their scalloped edges framing egg-yolk yellow anthers
in my palm; so vital, so perfect, only to curl at sunset,
folding into themselves. There’s nothing to stop it, this drama
of cycling—bloom/fade/bloom/fade—until one day root rot,
a fierce storm, or scourge of beetles, take them down forever.
Lauren Tivey is the author of four chapbooks, most recently Moroccan Holiday, which was the winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize 2019, and The Breakdown Atlas & Other Poems (Big Table Publishing Company, 2011). Tivey is a Pushcart Prize nominee (2016, 2019), and her work has appeared in Connotation Press, The Coachella Review, and Split Lip Magazine, among dozens of other web and print publications in the U.S. and U.K. After much international travel, including a six year stint living in China, she now resides in St. Augustine, Florida, where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Flagler College.