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Maybe a Mango, Recovery, Yearly Physical

Maybe a Mango, Recovery, Yearly Physical

– Poetry by Jan Ball – March 12, 2019


Maybe a Mango

Peach halves wobble in pineapple jello
on the tray across her hospital bed,
a kitchen accustomed to the elderly;
still, Green Pines Rehab could be
a worse spot for a triathlete; we can
bring her fresh fruit: crunchy green
apples for young teeth without partials,
succulent oranges that could, on second
thought,  drip juice into her neck brace,
but maybe a mango if one of the nurse’s
aides can lattice it the Indian way
between physical therapy sessions—
leg raises  with a heavy cast on her after-
surgery ankle like the huge stone the jailers
attached to The Count of Monte Cristo’s
sack when  they threw his body  into
the Mediterranean after his debilitating
years of imprisonment but the Count
survived his death, as well.

After the black ice skid on the Catskills
bridge at the same time as a semi-trailer
when paramedics cut her out of the silver
Honda–the photo of the chassis on facebook
a twisted sculpture of futility, the screeching
ambulance to the hospital Trauma Unit
a warning whistle exhaled through taut lips
and seven inert days drugged for both
clavicles cracked,  three broken ribs,
four fractured vertebrae–sadistic substitutions
for the partridge in a pear tree carol, she learns
to pivot on the good foot from the wheel chair
to use the commode as skillfully as Lebron
James avoids a guard.

Through the trauma unit and now rehab,
is there anything to help parents absorb
the bewildering tragedy of their daughter
in a car crash: maybe a mango?

conch shell

On her recovery bed, she wakes
from narco-hallucinations to see
a zen garden on the windowsill
wavering in the soft, narcotic light,
a familiar cairn of pink and green
stones, a conch shell and a small
carved elephant that her daughter
brought back from India.

She cannot powerhold the conch
shell like Ralph in Lord of the Flies,
nor does she have the breath to blow
the Indian chank trumpet,
Panchajanya, as Vishnu does,
symbolic of arising from life-
giving waters as she has
with the skill of her surgeon.

Nor can she access the strength
and wisdom of elephants depicted
on the windowsill although her days
in hospital have given her a different
perception of the The Blind Man and
the Elephant story, reality through
the filter of pain-killers and anti-

As she recovers more each day,
she mentally rearranges the green
and pink stones like chess pieces
and writes a mantra wish
on a piece of paper in her mind:
om mani padme hum (Hail to
the jewel in the lotus) then watches
the paper spin on a prayer wheel
as she returns to sleep.

red blood cells

Yearly Physical

Doctors no longer press my intestines
to determine how my digestive system
works, saying, “Does this hurt, does
that hurt,” the way Dr.Vardaman used to
stretch his fingers across my abdomen
in his yellow hibiscus floral shirt, cold
watch on his wrist, ready to walk out
the examination room door for other
adventures at his St. Thomas hide-away,
as he told us, but now my downtown
doctor uses more technologically advanced
procedures, drawing blood like some
giant mosquito intern in a white coat,
afterwards arranging platelets under
a microscope or whatever they do
to determine how my liver is processing
all that alcohol I drank last night and whether
I have any Vietnamese parasites leaping around
my innards like ballet dancers from my vacation
last summer.

This morning before I get up, while staring
at the ceiling light fixture, I gingerly push
down at various points on my belly trying
to remember where my appendix is:
Dozing? Taking a shower? And whether
my gallbladder is still working at the food
processing factory, sitting on a stool
separating the nuts I ate yesterday from
their oil with a long-handled sieve, hairnet
over her frizzy hair to comply with health
standards, assuring that my body remains
ship-shape until my physical next year.

Author Statement

One of the two worst times in my life was walking into our triathlete daughter’s hospital room in the trauma ward of a hospital outside NYC. Our son  had warned us that her face might be bruised, that her neck would be in a brace and that she would be hazy from the morphine. We soon found out that she had fractured thirteen bones including a broken ankle which she had repaired when we were there.

Perhaps saddest of all was her immediate termination of breast feeding her one-year-old daughter who was in the children’s ward of the same hospital with a broken leg and bruised spleen. The accident occurred when our daughter, her husband and child were returning to CT after we all had celebrated our son-in-law’s sister’s wedding in Upstate New York. Their Honda spun out of control on black ice and hit a guard rail just as a semi also spun out of control and smashed into the passenger side of the car. Our son-in-law had to leave our daughter to first responders to accompany our granddaughter to the hospital. I am shivering now just thinking of our daughter alone. After months of rehab in a facility as well as at home, our daughter returned to work and later returned to triathlons. We cheer her at every one!

About the Author – Jan Ball
Jan Ball

279 of Jan Ball’s poems appear in journals such as: Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, and Phoebe, in Great Britain, Canada, India and the U.S. Jan’s two chapbooks: accompanying spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014) were published with Finishing Line Press. Jan’s first full-length poetry book, I Wanted to Dance with My Father was published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2017. When not working out, gardening at their farm or traveling, Jan and her husband like to cook for friends.

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