Yesterday, we discovered the real cause of my sister’s brain bleed. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t an aneurism. It was AVM or cerebral arteriovenous malformation. (That’s what the main character, Nate, on Six Feet Under had in case you saw that HBO show.) Now we know. Less than 1% of the population has this condition, and it may be the root cause of what we call “the family aneurism.” It’s congenital.
The following poem I started writing when my sister Kim was in the worst shape, that first week in Neuro ICU. I tried everything I could to get images out of my body, to find words to deal with the grief that was too huge to contain: wrote in a journal, prayed, wrote a blog, etc. In Boston I had no bicycle; that would have helped.
My sister is bulb, paper-shelled, cloven,
six inches under soil, prepped and turned.
My sister is cumulus, extravagant thermals,
wisps lifting eyelids, eyebrows, and lips.
My sister is earthworm, segmented,
soft plow, persistent and slick.
When nurses plunge suction down her breathing tube,
closed eyes cry, and bleating, she is lamb.
When doctors wake her, rake knuckles
across her sternum, she is volcano, shaking.
Like rhododendron after clearcut
Like marram grass on sand
Like bracken ferns after fire
my sister is prayer
How lucky we are that she is no longer in this state. And she remembers nothing. I’m learning how to hold this tremendous gift.