Brenna Crotty and Brian Herrera

Brian Herrera, “Becoming”

Inspiration Piece


Brenna Crotty, “Becoming”

Response Piece


During the long, difficult hours of dying,
The weeks and months it took her,
As the white mice of cancer nibbled at her bones,
We gave my mother a big, black sharpie,
To write out her last wishes in letters large enough to be legible.
What did we want from these final words?
Love and hope and assurance that there would be more,
A bright light, a better place for her to rest?
Or did we just want done with it, waiting with the secret impatience
Of grown children
For death to come and claim her
And then leave us alone again?
She shrank into small staleness like a sponge
Left too long on a hot sidewalk.
She threw away the heavy white paper we gave her on the first day
And took to drawing on her arms,
Tracing the delicate paths of bones that jutted from her skin,
Outlining her ribs in thick, pungent streaks,
Her dry, papery skin thirstily sucking up the moisture.
“Mom,” I said, gently rubbing at the spidery black marks with a wet cloth.
“This stuff is permanent.”
She looked at me with pity. “It was always there,” she said,
“Waiting to come out.”

After she died we cleared out the little room, ready to
Close it up,
Burn down the house,
And salt the earth.
We wanted to go home and hug our children and tell ourselves
That we could still run a marathon if we decided to try.
Picking up framed pictures from the nightstand,
I found that her morbid artistry had spread to a photo of herself,
When she was 10 years younger
Than I am right now.
Over the firm, clear skin and pomegranate lips
She’d drawn a death-head’s smile.
The bright eyes she had blackened into empty sockets.
And the bones, all the bones were outlined in loving detail,
Drawn over the arms and clothes and breasts and hips,
A skeleton being teased out of its suit of skin.
Around the edges of the picture, one word, in her fierce and shaking script:

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 20, 2012 at 5:18 am | #

    High art from B&B. Seized me and left me no place to hide.