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It’s like being with Annie
as a baby again, a rivulet
of milky oatmeal down your chin
I catch & slip back in. You’re so tired,
too tired for food. The corner

of your mouth, not quite closed,
no longer moves. How slowly the body
shuts down. Working hard together,
we spend two hours on a little warm cereal,
a few pieces of orange, some tea.

You were patient like that
when I was a child, weak with flu.
You sat on my bed, scraped at an apple
with your spoon, as long
as necessary. You put it to my lips,

its texture tingly, pulpy
on my tongue. When I was well
I begged for more, wanting the apple
& your time. With Annie it was pears,
little jars of pears. We’d been together

in Asuncion one week, learning each other’s
ways. Breakfast at the adoption hotel,
she sat on my lap & eyed caged monkeys
feeding on fruit in the courtyard,
geese honking wildly.

Tropical trees shimmied
in the breeze. When she wailed,
we paced outdoor corridors
to show her trees in motion. A sense
of blessedness had fallen upon us—

sun was tempered by rain, lavender
bougainvillea arched over trellises,
our first papers were signed.
Lazily I fed Annie pureed pears
from el supermercado. She began

to settle in, waving her arms
like the monkeys, chattering, screeching,
then quiet as I scooped dribbles of pear
from her chin, tipped them in.
From her I learned about the body,

how not to be repelled by colorful
excretions—the smelly brown diaper,
milky spit-up on the shoulder,
little candlesticks of green
streaming from her nose.

After the ordeal of breakfast I get you
to the toilet, wipe your backside
routinely now, settle you in bed,
waiting for your nap before I leave.
You are closer to dying than I know.

First published in Coracle. Copyright © Beverly Burch

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