By Penny Perry
Mother couldn’t have known what to do.
She was only twenty-five,
drove her big sister, Leona, six weeks pregnant,
to the doctor’s in LA.
Leona squinted at California bungalows,
backyards with orange trees.
She thought about her husband home worrying,
her baby daughter waiting for her.
She told my mother about her screenplay,
a murder in the Braille room of the public library.
Then, she sat silent, her long fingers tangled like kelp.
The doctor glanced at his medical license
framed on the wall behind him,
said he was afraid to use ether.
Leona jutted her famous Heyert jaw:
“My friend Ruth told me to insist.
With ether I’ll float above the pain.”
It was hot that June morning, 1941.
No air conditioning. My mother
in the waiting room thumbed through magazines.
Big-eyed Loretta Young on the cover of Life.
It happened fast. Ether, a busy housewife,
pulled down the shades.
The doctor waved my mother in.
White face, head back, Leona was no longer breathing.
The ribbon in her dark hair floated in the breeze of a fan.
Penny Perry is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first poetry collection, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. Her new collection, Father Seahorse, will be published by Garden Oak Press in 2017.
Reading recommendation: Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage by Penny Perry.