By Marie Menta

Septic Shock

Sitting on the edge of the hospital bed,
 your trembling hand in mine.
 Your pounding heart is quickening.
 blood pressure dropping.

Septic shock.

I gently stroke your 13 years-old cheek,
that nestled in my breast
before becoming sick.
Body weak.

The chemo that destroyed the cancer
in your blood,
has also, petulantly, poisoned any protection
Of bacteria flood.

     Blood pressure still dropping.
     More people entering.
     Nurse clogs tapping.

    Units of blood hung from a second pole.
    Swaying, dripping, feeding.

The doctor arrives,
 orders the staff,
 “Speed the infusions to…”
 (What? I don’t hear.)
 although I sense the urgency.

 Not quite able to look at me,
 she in the white coat says softly,

 “This is the critical point.”

 Tensions rife;
 Twists the knife:
 I know this doctor-speak;
 It’s Death or Life.

    Blood pressure 60 over 30.
    Heart racing bpm over 150.

I am struck silent
gazing on your lips
and now-lashless closed eyes.
No audible cries.

Suffering incessantly since you were 3.
Now bald and moon-faced again,
your spirit clings to me.

We’re silently breathing in tandem
 on the slippery life-ledge. 

    IV pumps whirring fast and louder
     Jackhammers jumping.
     Accelerate and Scream.
     Runaway train descending,
     Dark tunnel, terrifying dream.
    “Chuka Chuka
     CHUka CHUKA

a calm.

I’m seeing coal black hair
 blow wildly in the wind,
 Not bare-headed in a cold, dark tomb.
 Hair, full and thick
 as when you emerged from my womb.

Spirits exhaling their baby breaths grace,
whispering to me -
“Memorize his pale, placid face.
And be thankful he can’t hear
the raging pumps’ pace.”

My vision still upon you,
my mouth opens slightly
and feel my lips smile,
send my breath quietly.

     Blood pressure beginning to arise.
     70 over 40
     BPM slowing to 140…

Watching your chest rising, falling-
Tiptoeing in your room
as the sun would begin rising,
to see your belly breath-
Waves undulating;
Reaching the shore.

Are you really mine?

     Desperately watching the monitors, I see,
     blood pressure now 80 over 50.
     BPM 130.
    Waiting for the next numbers to flash on the screen…
    90 over 60
    BPM 120.

Thank you,
thank you
numbers of rebirth!
I begin again to feel
the solid, living Earth.
Turning to the doctor and nurses;
Signs of belief?
In them, I see
visible relief.
The IV pumps slowing,
Shoulders and jaws
begin to let down;
I gaze back on you
thinking, (strangely,)
“You need a new gown.”
Because you will, indeed,
survive again this time.

Breath waves rolling onto the shore
as the sun begins to rise.
And shine.

Spirals of Sounds

If One of us must die-
 I hope it is I.

 When I thought my son with leukemia was dead, I screamed at God, “Take me instead!” The wish still stands inside my head. The signs and clues around abound. Reunions, forgivings, Spirals of Sound. Auspicious occurrings feel flashed and hot. The soul, it knows- It is taught, (It is taut.)
 Reflecting that leukemia has horribly harmed so many is key; Like my choir teacher’s son at 23, (the age of my son presently), she stoically tells me, over French onion soup, quiche, and tea. Asking me about my survivor son, 
“But you can see him? And hear him? And talk to him?” ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes.’ I say gratefully- -and guilty. She now makes music out of her grief. Holy Alchemy.

My son, locked in a chamber two hours a day. A chamber of oxygen with a tv he can play. Thirty days of this, just so his jaw joint won’t break, when the oral surgeon decides his wisdom teeth to take. A chamber of memories also trapped in his mind: The IV machines pumping constantly with might; “Chuka-chuka-whoosh!” “Chuka-chuka-whoosh!” A life-giving mechanical heart. Until a kink in the artery tube cries, “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” Startling, awakening us in the night

Tubes, needles, blood, mouth sores, radiation, chemo, vomit, pain.
 Fear. Fight to survive.

Then, the aftermath...Diseases of bones, hormones, heart. The poison that saved him will forever leave its mark..(And Bittersweet memories of a loyal dog’s “Bark!”) I pray, in his mind, body, soul, and heart; A spark. Please, I beg- A searing, strong, survival spark. 

The graveyard. The church. My Swedish immigrant ancestors whose photos grace the church’s entrance wall.  My son with me. Our family tree looking straight through me. How much taller will it grow to be? Reaching for the light it yearns see? 

I slide. I slip. I fall. I yelp. “Swish!” “Bang!” “Crunch!” “Help!” My bones are crushed. My daughter sobs. My mind is hushed. 
No blood is gushed. I’m stricken by pain, the ice, the shock; The shock of the love. The need for me, from she. For me, from he. For Me? Can it be? And the doctor wonders aloud, “Where are your agonizing cries?” How do I tell her I now feel free? 

 Jackson, Sexton, Plath, and Woolf -
Witches, all, of Darkness and Light. Whispering always to me in the night: “Live. Live .Give. Give.”

 So. Therefore. I, too, will refuse to leave. 
I, in fact, will Breathe. 
Watching; Waiting; Never; Abating.

Now my heart solemnly, soulfully, singing the rhythmic song of life:
"Chuka-chuka-whoosh! Chuka-chuka-whoosh!"

Garden of the Asylum

After swirling in the starry night
I stand gazing at the garden
created of paint
and madness.
Finally permitted to exit the walls
of the room in which he was
forcefully kept,
Shut in with his own
mind, thoughts, nightmares.
He is offered paints, a brush, a canvas,
A voice.
My mind’s eye begins to focus in
on faces forming
in the plants, trees, paths.
Faces contorted in agony
begging to be released.
I comment with astonishment.
No one else around me can
see these demon gargoyles protecting
Vincent’s Cathedral Visions.
Am I mad?
How do they not comprehend
this secret language
he speaks to me?

Or is it
I also yearn to
escape the rooms, walls,
relentless voices,
that cry out to me
in shrieking silence
causing painful pounding beats,
wailing winds of
spiraling, spiraling, spiraling
spinning, spinning, spinning
out of control
whirling dervishes dancing
inside my head?
His final primal scream.
I can only stand silently
steadying my feet
on the museum floor
seeing what I alone can see
hearing the garden monsters’
death hums echoing.
And close my eyes,
my mind searching for the
Room of Walls
in which to safely be.

The humming gradually
Quiets, quiets, quiets
And I hear my husband’s voice,
“Let’s head to the gift shop.”
Goodbye to Vincent’s
menacing garden faces.
Their hauntingly horrid humming
calls to me still.


The lioness leaps through the pen.
No longer caged.
No longer habitually fed by strangers.
She hungers more each day, hour, minute, second
To mine the depths of her own electric, pulsating, constant spinning den of
Ecstacies, burials, secrets, ghosts,
Sins, births, deaths.
The pen scratches, claws, digs,
and growls.
Then Roars.
Only then, can the lioness
Tear and rip through the
Organs, bone, tissue, heart,
And skin-
The hide-
That covers everything.
An open, bloody wound
Healed only by
Ink stains
Stitching the letters
Into single, salient, subservient, strong sentences.
The pangs of hunger
She so desperately endured

Anxiety of ’83


Alarm jolts me awake from a nightmare.
Eyes open wide
I stare at the numbers on the digital clock.
It is 6:00 am

I'm top of my class:
Honors Society. National Merit. President of Choir and Theatre Club.
Awards, scholarships, accolades keep rushing in.
Bright future screaming at me.
Screaming like the alarm I turn off clumsily.

A test today in trigonometry
is all my anxious mind can see.
Heart pounding, trying to breathe
I leap from my bed hurriedly.

"I must ace this test!'
My mind taunts me.
Hauntings of failure and mediocrity.

I get to the bathroom, turn the shower's spigot on,
Proceed to strip naked and then sit to pee.

Closing the curtain, the shower head's pressure bearing down on mine.
The press of liquid needles stinging my brain,
as I obsess on formulas, sine and cosine.
Repeating them constantly in my whirling dervish brain.

A sound yanks me from my studying mind.
Is it the bathroom door opening wide?
I startle as I hear my mother say, 
"What are you doing? It's 1:00 in the morning."
Then a terse, "Go back to bed!" as she shuts the door on me.

But the clock said 6.  I know it did.

Is it happening again?
Did I have visions of imagined time?

Disoriented, I dry my trembling body.
Embarrassed as I redress,
And go to my room
The clock says 1:10.

Lying on my bed in the darkness
I stare at the orange-hued numbers of the clock,
So nightmares of failure won't terrify the night.
And visions of imagined time can no longer trick me.

37 years later, I now dream in peace.

Years of therapists, doctors, treatment, and art
have finally, finally convinced me to stop
To stop the insistence on perfection.
The insidious, impossible quest that was slowly, constantly,
eating through me from my insides.

 I still become anxious and hear the old voices,
"You're never enough."
"You've squandered your life."
But I know that they lie.
So I laugh at them and smile
with hope, not dread.
The clock on my phone now my friend.
I sleep, breath relaxed, heart beating calmly,
Dreaming of waves gently washing over me.

My perfectly imperfect self,
Will awaken to a perfect dawn.

Watching Columbo with Dad

A visit with the man
who held my small hand,
“School day, school days,
Good old golden rule days.”
A humble hero to many,
And to me.
Each sunrise begins
praying on his knees.
We are talking of life.
Of basketball playing.
He’s here. I’m here.
Over a canal full of mullets
leaping out of the water
and returning to the dark.
Watching TV.
Detective, overcoat, old car, inquisitive mind
And always a clever scheme.
All gets resolved.
Crime is solved.
Our form of togetherness
A prayer unseen.

5 thoughts on “Septic Shock and Other Poems

  1. Wow 😯 what a great way to express some experiences of life! Absolutely fantastic and very well done and heart warming. Congrats to the author !! 👍👏


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