A Troubled Route by Jillian Wasick

Is it time? 
she asks. Dinner churning 
in our bodies but only 
mine with a gate 
about to close. 

Come up then, when you’re ready.
For shorter breaths,
locking spider web, 
undershirt between steel 
shell and blistered skin. 

We gather to it, 
she a voice behind, 
Okay baby, pulling apart 
the slight space between 
the brace’s back. 
The meager opening 
not a joke 
not the slit cut 
into curtain by cartoon mouse 
who doesn’t want the show to end,
but a sliver bound by straps 
that soon will close as my mother
uses all of her weight. 

At the beginning, 
a waiting game. 
Only if the curve grew 
too fast, ticked over 
twenty-five degrees, 
would a brace be cast. 

So for months, I searched 
for straight lines— 
an L for love carved into classroom desk,
my sister’s glittering emery board,
the bathroom mirror’s edge— 
running my finger down them, 
tracing for my spine 
a simpler course. 

But the end of each visit, 
shuffling out of beige room, the x-ray
I’d held 
breath for, held 
lead apron against belly for,
I’d see 
stretched against fluorescent screen. 

Glowing bones 
drifting further 
from heart, as lines 
of drivers curve away 
from crash. Nurses 
clicked pens and I’d pass 
my body’s parting shot, 
warning shock 
of what we cannot will.

Jillian Wasick is a former public school educator and current instructional designer for a nonprofit organization. She was a Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow in 2019. Jillian enjoys dancing and trying to emulate the Wicked Witch while biking the streets of San Francisco, where she lives.

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