Featured Poem 7/8 – “Portrait of My Parents Making Love as a Stomach Virus”
Portrait of My Parents Making Love as a Stomach Virus by Lauren Schmidt
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.