“Would It Be Okay” by Mike Nichols


I get that we are tough,
that we’ll get through this
because, I watched you
gripping the telephone
pressing your forehead against
her nightingale patterned wallpaper
and smiling those exact words
after announcing her passing
to the voice on the other side
but

 

would it be okay if
for right now I just
didn’t get through this, if
I didn’t even try to? And instead, stood
gaping for an hour or for a year,
tumbling down the rabbit hole in Slow-Mo
snatching after her fluttering
hospital gown, falling
through memories: her teaching me
to iron my own shirts, to vacuum, to overlap
each pass, keeping the carpet lines straight.
These little necessities I see, but
I’m still struggling
to get the meaning
in the nightingales’ wobbling song
and

 

would it be okay if
these uninvited guests got up
from her matched floral print
couch and loveseat,
her cushioned piano bench,
her lattice backed chair set with
tear shaped trickles of lacquer
hardened on each leg,
and wordlessly walked out,
taking their false sympathy and forced cheer,
bouncing and straining behind them
like white and blue helium balloons,
leaving us, unaccompanied, with her absence
and

 

would it be okay if
I just gave way, collapsed to my knees
on the ceramic tile in front of the
crumb strewn kitchen counter
breaking
into one hundred-thousand
boy shaped pieces
and
would it be okay if
in imitation of the indent
left behind by her withered body
in the rented hospital bed
I arranged myself
splayed out, starfish style
to sink, to drift, to drown
in the unfathomable
sorrow?
because

 

I know
we are tough
and

 

I promise to be tough,
later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Nichols was born all in a rush just after midnight, with no assistance from doctor or midwife, under a waning Tennessee moon on a chill October night behind a partition at the back of a tar-paper shack in which his unwed mother had holed-up for a time. Mike won the 2014 Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize. His fiction and poetry may be found at Underground Voices, Bewildering Stories, and Black Rock & Sage.