Derrida at His Mother's Deathbed
Her body refuses the breakfast plums.
Knot-mouthed, she mutters,
echoing nonsense over the hospital tiles
while he looks at the tube
twisting into her arm, the blood howling
through it: a red boat, doomed
sailing nevertheless along a quick river.
Oh, how the body buckles,
life-jackets her in—or has she buttoned
herself into it, dressing to attend
a lecture, skin-cowled and bone-shod?
They've both—sa mère, the body
—fallen sick and drawn, as the word would,
shouldering all its meanings.
He spoons plum pulp to her lips
—mangez la prune, he says.
The mouth of her body curls up: mulish
fist strangling a cut crocus stem.
The phone rocks off its hook, red cord
spiraling like a wish
to a sunken receiver, and the halved plum
sits, uneaten, miniature tomb
of its heart exposed. Nurses in the hall
carry sheets folded over and over
—themselves smothering themselves
—and their white shoes swish
onward like dumb mer-creatures gaining
on something escaping
downstream, or instead like clouds dispersing
as rumors in a loud hall.