she was born beside graves of crisp white sheets
bleached too many times to count,
and beds that could never stay warm long.
she learned to talk listening to footsteps that couldn’t remember
how to hold onto the floor,
under lights that blinked in urgent red whispers.
there were never any songs sung, not
to her, but as she got older
she learned to make her own,
molded from the smiles that echoed out of her scratchy TV.
she swirled words under her tongue
and hid them there,
waited for the day They would come one last time,
wearing cartoon scrub shirts and sudden, sudden smiles--
take out her tubes and wires
take off her bandages
and say, Be Free.
she saved her songs for running in the bright yellow
leaves she could see falling from her window.
but, whenever They came, Their palms
clutched no key, no quick happy chance
of a drifting cloud dancing dream, just rain,
coloring books stained with fingerprints, and I’m Sorry.