Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Woman's Bed Where She Lies and Tells Poems*

It's rumored to be made of horse hair, this bed she has slept in since 1977.

Bought it with the girlfriend, the only one she ever lived with, and I think there was even a story of giggling like mad when they brought the queen-size mattress into the building because all the neighbors were watching and knew something different was happening behind closed doors in that apartment. (Or maybe that was the Christmas Tree story, another act of terrorism that only two middle aged Lesbians could do to a Jewish enclave.)

I have never laid down on this bed.

I have stripped it, cleaned it, made it.  I have sprayed it with Febreze.  I have sat on it, held Florence’s hand and comforted her on this bed.  I have dressed her, undressed her and clipped her nails on this bed.  And every time, thinking she was back in the tenement on Hester Street where sleepovers were common between friends, Florence would invited me to "lie down and go to sleep" in this bed.

Her bed.

The bed she bought to begin new life, new hope, new love. The bed where she told herself better futures and denied worst pasts. The bed no man ever slept in.

The bed she loved in, climaxed in, lost in, splintered peace with frightening dreams in, refused to cry in.

The bed she cradled herself through sleep, the radio playing all night NPR news shows.

Her bed.  A woman's bed. Filled with poems told fiercely as reality shattered and disappointment flooded in.

Tomorrow the new electric hospital bed rental will arrive.  Its hydraulic lift will make bed-bathing of Florence by Gabriella and Penny less back-breaking.  It will have bars to keep Florence from falling out in the middle of the night. It will have buttons that push Florence up to sitting and down to sleeping. And when it is no longer needed, it will be returned to Medicaid.

Tomorrow Gabriella and I will somehow coax Florence from her old bed.  I will lie, not in her bed, but to her face. I will say "we are putting you in a special bed just for a little while. Until you get better and can sit up without being dizzy. And when you do and when you are walking again, you'll go lay down in your own bed and then we will go to Coney."

And she will correct me and say "Coney ISLAND. And I will LIE down, not LAY down."

And I will nod and know my lie is forever.
*Dedicated to Florence's demand proper grammar be engaged: One does not LAY down. One LIES down.


Ray and Dennis set up the new stage of her life.