The following poem is in response to Victoria’s Wednesday Writing Prompt, “Memory” from her magnificent blog, Live to Write Today.

My dad’s oldest sister had eight children: 3 girls and 5 boys from two different marriages. The cousins closest to me were the five youngest (4 boys and one girl). This is about the oldest boy, who served most of his life in the military but had a weak heart. He suffered many health problems and died prematurely. He was about my older sister’s age. When I was younger, he and his brothers scared me with their boyhood vigor and rough-housing.

I wrote this poem the day after I went to visit him in the hospital. He died within a month of my visit.

Ransom

Lorna, April 9, 2006

He was a giant,

This cousin of mine, and he scared me.

I was young and shy and squat.

The only truth I knew about boys was to avoid them.

And he was a good one to avoid.

He had an impish grin that began in his eyes.

That smirk spilled miles down to his feet.

When I saw it, I knew to expect mischief.

And I ran for cover.

But there was little cover to be found,

When my boy cousins decided to make chase.

In the hospital bed,

He still looks like my giant cousin.

And I am scared again.

Gone is his impish grin,

His face camouflaged by an oxygen mask.

He won’t be chasing me,

Of that, I have no fear.

He is firmly bound to the bed.

A snake’s nest of plastic tubes,

Drugs that dull his world,

And a plastic mask against which he battles

With what little strength he can summon

all keep him captive.

Safe.

But from whom? Not me.

The mask that gives him breath silences him in every way.

Binding him to the hospital bed is

A cadre of his siblings and me,

Holding his ashen hands to keep him from

Pulling at his medical shackles,

Stroking his head, back, arms, any place

That is not invaded or bruised to calm this

Former soldier, now kidnapped by his own body.

My little girl fear is gone.

A mature, compassionate fear wells up in its place.

Today, my fear comes from his pain,

Of knowing boy, then man, now prisoner.

In games we used to play,

Unfortunates like me who were neither swift nor clever,

Were captured by the skilled strategists and athletes,

Like my giant cousin and his brothers.

But today, he has been captured.

This is no game and it has gone too far.

What price is his ransom?

None of us in the room know.

And all of us in the room know.