White of Cotton
by Elizabeth Santos
Oh, the white of cotton sheets, the perfect edge, the perfect pleats
The dreary walls, the lonely halls, the soft excruciating calls

I always gladly stood by you through every test they put you through
The chemicals, the painful nights, the nightmare dreams and stinging bites

But when I saw you lying there so thin and weak, no voice, no hair
Your chest, your head, your thinning back were left in radiation black

My eyes were not prepared to view this dying man, this other you
Who lived with me beneath blue sky, and now a man too weak to cry

And oh, the white of cotton sheets, the tubes and needles, rhythmic beats
Metallic bed, metallic sound, a skimpy robe they tied around

My heart was not prepared to see you tugging chains to set you free
And oh, how much your eyes beseech a nurse's button out of reach

Never had I seen on earth discomfort's torture on a berth
With sheets of alabaster white, with ends and corners tucked in tight
Your rose was but a thorny bush, a button there too weak to push

And all your pain I took as mine, til morphine's regulation time
A bowl of soup you could not eat, disturbing words you could not speak

A skeleton between the threads of sheets of white on metal beds
And every player played his part, but no one had prepared my heart