Portrait of My Parents Making Love as a Stomach Virus

Lauren Schmidt, Poetry

For two days, my father’s eyes
--------were socked in fog. His body’s heat

rose on a high flame. His face was
--------a withered pocket for nose and chin,

skin a dim bulb of sweat the color
--------of water when a drop of blood

seeps in. For two days, his bowels churned
--------drippy stool, his stomach’s switch

on forward then reverse. For two days,
--------his lips quivered with stringy spittle.

The chunks spattered around the toilet
--------suggested a strict diet of salsa. For two days,

ass or face-first we determined
--------by the explosion of auditory anomalies

that rattled the door. For two days,
--------this was his lot. On the third day,

he buckled in the downstairs bathroom
--------doorjamb, forearms pinned on either side.

Get Mom he gurgled before his head dropped,
--------chin to chest. Get Mom. The order throbbed

in my head, counted the seconds before
--------my virus-whipped father collapsed. Get Mom.

Get Mom. My gut pumped with nervous blood
--------and all I could think of was my father’s belly,

the fat of it, folded over the elastic band
--------of his sweatpants, the sight of his navel, branched

with hair encroaching from his groin. Witness-sick. Get Mom.
--------I wanted to run away, not run for help, but: Get Mom.

Get Mom. The orbs of sweat yellowing his underarms,
--------the pungent ale of his body and his breath. Yet,

when I returned with her, she did not hesitate to hold him,
--------to bear that dreadful body with her body.

Dreadful belly against her belly, my father flung
--------over her, exhausted. He looked like that once,

in the morning, through the crack in the door,
--------in that hazy moment-after. My father’s cheek

mashed against her chest so his face looked made of clay.
--------Embracing her, his forearm gently squashed her

breast against the side of her tired body. And there, I watched
--------two bellies swelling with breath, lifting as if to kiss,
----------------------------------------and kiss, and kiss again.