"The Past" Contest Winners / September 2012 (Issue 18)

Iron Arthritis

by Reid Mitchell

Reid Mitchell Three days ago I could not lift                                
my left hand past my nipple.  
Yesterday I noticed I no longer pain myself
reaching out for what I oughtn’t.

And I thought,
how quickly the body learns limits, brand new ones.
made a notebook entry
and meant to use that thought:
an analogy for growing wise or
an antagonism toward growing wise
embracing or kicking some wisdom life taught.

Tonight, I see my mother in the kitchen.
She is pushing her right elbow with her left palm
so she can reach above her head
and fetch down a cast iron skillet.

She has been doing this for forty years.

Iron skillet: iron arthritis.  
She wore manacles the rest of her life.
Sizzling like the skillet heated to cure it:
the flame underneath the skin and fire in the joints.

It hurt her to touch the people she loved
It hurt her to not touch the people she loved.

Sixteen aspirins a day
Gold, cortisone and no cure.

She told me that she wanted to die so bad
so Dad could have a woman of use.

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