Halloween, and the doctor tells me
That I have spina bifida occulta,
A tiny piece of the tail of my spine
Missing. 'Occulta,' he explains. 'Hidden.
It would have happened in the womb
When the neural sac closed' –
Bringing together, rounded, his hands.
My mother has shrunk two sizes.
All at once she looks like old people.
Her skin hangs loose on her arms,
Her breasts suddenly around her waist.
Countless diet books sit on the quiet shelves.
Her hearing and eyesight have set off without her,
Like children running on ahead,
Eager to get to a party.
Except it is no party.
Today she weeps, apologising for her tears,
And I comfort her as you would a child.
I rub her shoulder and lie that it will be alright
But don't hug her for fear of something giving;
Her back so thin now that each vertebra is visible,
And the two wings of bone.
When I get home, the dark streets are alive
With devils, skeletons and ghouls,
And I too latch on my mask –
A smile and cheery voice –
And join the trick-or-treaters.
Later, in the shower with my daughter,
Water pools around our feet, green with hair-dye
And salty with invisible tears.
'I love you, Mummy.'
'I love you.'
'I love you more.'
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Nathalie Abi-Ezzi
would be pleased to hear them.