The Other Mothers
by K.B. Kincer
They arrive in uniforms of grey,
pink, and blue, the colors of dusk, of dawn,
patterned like flocks of birds lifting from water
to sky, rustling about the room plumping pillows,
straightening the metal forest of IV poles
to untangle tubes that tether the bed, a boat
floating, trying to drift from this pastel shore.
A blur of movement, they bob and turn
in short, swift steps, check the charts,
temperature, administer medication, and let
his mother brush Vaseline over cracked
and swollen lips, let her comb his hair,
massage cream into his hands, his feet,
and remain at the foot of the bed.
They wash his body, but cover him
as they go, before and after, to leave
nothing exposed to janitors who swab
the floor, remove trays, and empty trashcans
around them. They support his head, his arms
and legs with pillows and blankets, just so,
for they’ve practiced at home sprawling for hours
on couch cushions and foam bolsters.
Sunlight enters the room, rows across
the floor in a narrow triangle, fades.
At night, they lift and turn her son
to face the window, always east.