Barbara Crooker: “After My Husband Tries to Kill Himself in the Vent-Trach Rehab, I Fight to Regain Equilibrium”




It was so logical, his hallucination. Everyone in the world
had died, including me. That was why I hadn’t come to see
him. He forgot I’d called every day, forgot about Covid,
how the whole country was in lockdown. He also forgot
that he couldn’t move, that the stroke had taken away
the use of his limbs. So instead of a big fall from a great
height, he slid unceremoniously to the floor,
setting off alarms that convinced him even more
that the world was ending. At the psych eval,
which I joined via FaceTime, I convinced the team
that he was still in his right mind, that this was
a reasonable plan of action based on slightly-skewed logic.
And despite what the stroke had taken away,
he was still himself, my sunny glass-is-always-half-full
optimist. Once you get stronger, I’ll bring you home,
I promised, and I did. And though damaged,
his brain still worked—he remembered passwords
and bill paying options, and his sense of humor remained
intact. I worked on the uncooperative right hand
that tremored or clenched up tight. Some days,
all we did was clasp each other. His big smile, like the sun
coming up behind the fir tree, brightened each morning.
You look pretty today, he said, though the stroke
had taken away his vision. Was that a compliment?
I shrugged. It could have gone either way.



Barbara Crooker has published Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, which came out from Word Press in 2008 and won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press, 2010); Gold (Cascade Books, a division of Wipf and Stock, in their Poeima Poetry Series, 2013); Small Rain (Virtual Artists Collective, 2014); Selected Poems, (FutureCycle Press, 2015); Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017); The Book of Kells (Cascade Books, 2018, winner of the Best Poetry Book 2018 from Poetry by the Sea); and Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), which was long listed for the Julie Suk Award.

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