Two Poems

Toni L. Wilkes

In Surgery

I leave an outgoing message each night.
It tells people “My daughter’s still alive,”
next steps, words for their comfort.

You’re in surgery again. I wait in the hallway,
opposite the doors where the surgeons will emerge—
one way or the other. Outside the third floor window,
heat radiates from the pavement, adjacent rooftops.
Six a.m. and Riverside’s white-hot summer renders
the air an unbreathable brown. Somewhere in the distance
looms Mount Rubidoux, a rock-studded mountain
you can see if you’re standing on it. Below, shackled
convicts in orange scrubs waddle between the buildings.
Sheriffs prod them in place as they enter for treatment.

The cell phone vibrates against my thigh.
Probably someone calling for an update.

It’s exhausting. I slide onto the chair I stole from
Room 246. After seven weeks, I’m part of the landscape—
the whole hospital knows me. Many of them think
I work here now. Mary from ICU arrives. “She’s been in
a long while. How you doing?” Brilliant—don’t
I seem brilliant? I’m brilliant.
“Fine, thanks for asking.”
“You know, we just need to trust God has a plan.”
The God I know doesn’t make plans like this.


Living the Word Stroke

Hide away in sleep
Unbudded rose, drift through
Black water beneath a lid of ice.

Lick the lozenge,
Gulp the draught to
Hide away in sleep

Where long slithers of smoke
Caterpillar up your spine pouring
Black water beneath this lid of ice.

Hands thread a monkey stitch,
Tatting on your scalp. While you
Hide away in sleep

They hose your throat. Clamp locks
Your skull. You’re bound to
Black water beneath a lid of ice.

Awake, you see erector sets,
Nurses swimming below the bed.
Best you hide away. Sleep on
Black water beneath this lid of ice.

Toni L. Wilkes’s chapbook, Stepping Through Moons published by Finishing Line Press, was nominated for the California Book Award and the PEN USA Literary Award. Her poem "Once Again" first published in POEM received a 2009 Pushcart Prize nomination. Toni’s recent work appears or is forthcoming in Confrontation, Cream City, Hayden’s Ferry, Soundings East, Southern Humanities Review and other noted journals. Toni lives in Santa Rosa, CA with her husband Gregory W. Randall where they host a quarterly poetry salon in their home.