May 15, 2009 Williamsburg

She’s gone. It’s Friday morning, 4a.m. I had just gotten home from the hospital the day before: 3 hours in a car borrowed from a lover, overnight in old scrubs and his ripped & oversize jeans on a foldout hospital chair. Funny the things you remember. Helped her comb her thin hair, brush out her sour hospital breath. She was weak but coming home, the pneumonia clearing. So I took the borrowed car back to school, get in one good grad school work day before the weekend. Phone to Dad, checking in: Home safe; no traffic. She’s worse, Toots, he answers back, and it’s just hours since I’ve left her and I’m packing another bag. Her breathing, her breath: worse. We’ll leave again in the morning, I think. Quick shower over cold tile, clinical white it seems in hindsight; overnight packed for the late morning shot north and west again, boyfriend’s car this time. Only the phone rings at 4a.m., and it’s my brother from Richmond. I take the cell to the bathroom so I don’t disturb. My brother, who’d gotten the call from Dad: She’s gone. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t get. Breath. No one came. No one there tossing on the foldout chair to shout for the nurse when she started gasping. No one to make it better, to make the breath come. The pneumonia, they said later, it was metastatic lung cancer. They didn’t know. They hadn’t seen. (Why hadn’t I seen?) The bag. I’ll have to repack it now. Funny the things you remember. Quick, what do I have that’s black? The bathroom in fluorescent white, call drops, floor rushing up to kiss me, cold.


Joanna Suzanne Lee is finding prose surprisingly freeing. An erstwhile poetess, she is responsible for wordsmithery & related shenanigans from Shockoe Bottom to South of the James under the big bright umbrella of River City Poets. You can keep up with her at