Cavae Peninsulam, Look About You

Arden Dodge

I’ve never broken any of my bones. Somehow, I end
up in the doctor’s anyway. And it smells like it always does,
smudged lipstick on my nurse’s teeth tells me she likes to talk.
She asks why I’m there, and I tell her that I’ve been fainting a lot.
She knew I needed a refill, her eyes glanced up from the clipboard
in her hands to me. Her eyes landed right below mine.

I’ve broken my brother’s arm before in a field
in the middle of Michigan. My grandmother came running,
limping from a fall when she was nine into the same lake
she sits next to every day with the same man. The dog who can’t swim
sleeps in her lap. There is a scar on his hind leg from rusty fish hooks.

She heard him scream as she sat in her living room, brought a storm
into the field we swore adults from, her hair in a towel,
her feet barely missing garden snakes’ tales in tall fescue.
I was picked up beneath the arms and taken back
to the house. I could feel the blood shaking
between my ears. She was really scared, I could feel it
in the way she kicked at the screen door.

The nurse, Lipstick, I call her, tells me her daughter
is about to have a baby. His name is going to be William,
after all of the kings. The tiles are yellow, the bags under my eyes
feel like static, so I listen to the girl on one side of me
through the very hollow walls. And then on the other side of me
through plaster, I hear this little baby coughing, sobbing. The mother
sounds like she is sobbing, too, even as another nurse tells her
it was just a cold, there’s medicine for everything.

But she says she hasn’t slept and Isn’t it bad for him?
For a three-month-old to be so sick? She says her husband works
in a hospital, that he’s around strangers...all the time.

My grandfather, who could not run with his knees, did it anyway.
Ran to my brother in the field across from the little house, surrounded
by birdfeeders and hauled him onto his back like it was turkey season,
and the air was frigid and he couldn’t feel his fingers.
My brother told me two years ago that he could not feel his bones,
that he could only hear my grandfather breathe and that
he had just noticed how pretty it was outside.
You’re much lighter than a bird, boy.

I tell Lipstick that I know her grandbaby is going
to be beautiful. She smiles, looks down to the blood
pressure pump and says I’m really scared,
but I’ve already had my baby. She stops to listen
to the hiccuping on the other side of the wall. I want to tell her
they need to fix something so hollow, I want to say they’re really hollow,
Lipstick, the walls. But instead, she tells me that my heart is working, thought I could hear
her tell me no one can hear us.

The baby next to me screams, Lipstick leaves. I want to tell the child
and the mother that he will forget what it feels like to be that sick
in the heat behind his forehead. He’ll forget until he feels his pulse
when his baby teeth have all gone, and he’s six, on a Tuesday night, not sure
what more there is to lose.


ARDEN DODGE is a junior at Charleston County School of the Arts. She's won numerous awards nationally and regionally in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and is a finalist in the Atlantic Institute Art and Essay Contest. She mostly enjoys writing fiction and personal essays, but loves it when she's on a roll with a poem. This particular piece was inspired by her maternal grandfather and their lake house in Lapeer, Michigan.