Cold Plunge

My Wednesday poems have morphed to Thursday, must be summer :)  This poem goes out to a dear brother, Stephen. 


Cold Plunge

Devil’s hole in the Breitenbush river,
white enamel bathtub outside a sauna,
wood barrel near a hot tub,
Blue Lagoon plunge into Denny creek.
I used to swim naked in the Pacific in January,
this morning a cold shower after steam.
Because you feel so alive after.

I thought this poem would be about
the increased oxygen that rushes to the skin’s surface,
the beneficial practice of jumping into discomfort
that you know is ultimately good for you,
reps for when you need to say or do something you are afraid to,
yet I received an email from dear friends who await
the call “a match has been made,”
a donor found for a double lung transplant.

Tonight I asked my partner for steak
as I am menstruating and was recently diagnosed with low iron.
While I stood at the counter
chopping vegetables for our salad,
my man pulled my panties down in a flourish,
he forgot I was bleeding.
Near me was the meat’s styrofoam packaging,
the pad soaked in blood was not unlike
the plastic liner under the meat we bought,
I felt vulnerable, embarrassed, protective.
About eating meet, I am needy, sorry, resolved.

Once a passenger in my car said “donorcycle”
when a Kawasaki Ninja roared past on a windy road,
his swerves foreshadowing the mistakes, the ambulances,
the life support, the decisions, the deadlines.
Yes. And how could someone young and not yet tethered to life,
not want to see if the bike really can hit 176 mph?

When my thirty year old schizophrenic brother died,
he was blue when they found him, which is a shame,
his lungs, inhaling two packs a day, would not have been useful
but his heart given the right brain could have healed the world.
My son asked, “When I turn 16 can I get a motorcycle?”
I answered, “God no”
flashing on cornea, kidney, lung, heart,
middle and inner ear, liver, intestine, pancreas, tissue,
valves, tendons, ligaments, bone.

Who gets a transplant is based
on “justice” and “medical utility.”
An ice cold preservative solution is flushed into
each donor organ, the organ is then packed in ice
and transported in an ordinary beverage cooler.
Every ten minutes someone is added to the transplant
waiting list. 92 transplants take place in the U.S. per day.

One organ donor can save eight lives.
My friend, who without donor lungs, will not live
is the most worthy, caring, sacrificing, giving,
hard working, taking care of his body, not smoking,
healing, hoping, I said worthy, I will say it again,
worthy, worthy, a life in proof of worthiness.

We want the poems we read to make sense.
We want life to make sense.
Sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
I am taking cold showers again,
or rather ending with cold,
at first I can’t put all of me under
and parcel myself, back, then chest,
finally head.

I hate the first few seconds,
the intake of breath so sharp
like dying might be, or living can be.
The breath the way we respond when
the phone rings, we receive news, he or she is gone,
or we found them, we lost it, them,
or we found one, her, him, them.