(A poem about those living, those dying and those caught hard in-between)
my job is you nine-
to-five, plus overtime. yet, i am not paid to scratch white
lice from your head; grease your
back when it is high time oil touched chapped skin, or bed sore;
shave your head when that time comes (though you made me swear not to,
I will); sweep the floor wipe it clean
barbed wire mess bad hair, springless curls shorn (my hands will not caress again).
you don't know that i hold you
down so that spew hits toilet and not you,
wipe your face so you cannot feel that which drips from
blister corners of your mouth-- puss-swollen, pink skin blue cracked-- (no more kisses)
they don't pay a wage for this. yet, but for wet bed, i would sleep shotgun. yes.
instead, i change you when hard and soft seep out, don't breathe in so i can breathe out patience, breathe out calm, breathe out comfort, breathe out sane, while you
i clip nails that you cannot see, wipe cracks clean where hands have not been, rock-a-by you on raised bed till your eyes stay closed, feed into you that medi-soup through those tube spoons, your life now measured in
loud beeps, green lines on black screen--jagged, soon flat-lined.
this is my nine-to- five full time, and yes,
i hate you.
"Letting Go" originally appeared in Torch Poetry.
Lilian Oben is a West-African born poet and writer of fiction. Her short story, "The Other Side" was featured in the all-women anthology, His Rib: Stories, Essays and Poems by Her, published in May 2007 by Penmanship Books, a New York-based, minority and woman-owned publishing house. A current resident of Washington, D.C., Lilian is currently working on her collection of short fiction.