Matthew Dickman – Stroke

Matthew Dickman (August 20, 1975 -)

The hotel sign blinking
in the brain
of my body
stops blinking but not
the whole sign,
you know, just a couple
of the letters,
the H and T.
Then the E and L
so all that is left
when the whole left
side of my body
comes to an end
is the O.

I am sitting across
from a beautiful
woman, drinking coffee,
and she is asking
me what I did.
What were you doing
when you were
in your twenties,
she asks. And I am
saying something like
I was doing
a lot of drugs
but the words
come out all slurred,
they come out
like pushing your tongue
through a clay door,
the word drug
becoming droog.

And then free-will
floats up and out,
really it flies, it leaps
off the ledge of me,
and I remember
while falling
from my chair
to the ground, trying
to apologize.

The half of my brain
that was still
alive, as alive as
a deer
standing in a meadow
in the morning
licking dew off
the blades of grass,
telling what was left
of me that I was just
tired. You’re just tired
the left side
of my brain said,
you’re just tired,
this is normal.

The normal not normal
blood clot
in the right side
of my brain
wiping everything
away like a teacher
wiping chalk away
with an eraser,
the blackboard
full of signs and cosines
and then just long
strokes of white,
a white field in winter,
a white sky
before rain. A white
sheet of paper.

Through the tunnel
of my body
I could hear someone
ask me
are you ok?
My whole life someone
asking me,
and so often it was me,
are you ok,
are you feeling well?
I’m just tired,
I thought.
And then this
thought: I’m not.
A hand on the hand
I could still feel.
They are coming,
the voice said,
it’s ok, you will be ok.
The sound then
of the ambulance
from far off.
The sirens getting
closer, lights
and sirens approaching
my body
from a street far off.
That’s something
I never thought of
before.
That sirens are always
approaching
a body, that’s the whole
reason for them,
to let everyone know
there is a body.
I thought of my son
at home,
seventeen months old,
pointing to the window
in the living room,
saying
siren, siren, siren,
and up, up, up.
I was lifted up
onto the gurney,
my shirt cut off
in the ambulance,
and arriving
at the hospital,
the triage nurse
asking,
are you Matthew Dickman.
Yes. Up, up, up,
I thought.

Death is not a design,
not an idea.
Death is the body, I know
this now, it’s your arms
and legs,
your whole cardio
vascular system.
It is the whole of us,
only we walk around
enough to think
it isn’t.

The blood clot is doing
its job,
it’s doing exactly what
it was made to do
and the only thing you
need to do
when you are dying
is to die.
Nothing else.

You don’t need to
fold the laundry
or clean
the kitchen floor,
you don’t have to
pick your children up
from school.

Unlike
the rest of your life,
there is only this one
thing. You don’t even
have to be good at it,
you just have to
do it. A list of chores
with just one
chore. In the operating
room I’m awake,
made to stay awake,
while the surgeon
threads a “line”
through the artery
in my groin
and up through all
the rooms, through
the room of my legs,
and the room
of my chest,
through the room
of my neck
and into the room
of my brain.
When I put my son
to bed I give him
a bottle of milk,
and rock him and sing,
it’s time to rest your body,
it’s time to rest
your mind,
it’s time, oh it’s time
to rest your brains.
The surgeon is able
to grab the clot
and slip it through
and out
of all the rooms,
into the one he’s working in.

I can hear everyone
in the operating
room clapping
because they are happy,
because it took
that one try
to get it all, to remove
the clot, and then
the left side of me
begins to move again,
and there it is,
I have to pee,
my body is done
with this death.
And now there is nothing
to do but wait
for the next death.

I have never been more
inside than that
moment. I have never
wanted anything
as much as I wanted
to stand up
in that room
and walk out through
the automatic
doors to you,
to walk right into
your arms
like walking into the sea.