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Joely Johnson Mork

December 19, 2013

With Bleach and Blood


Bleach bath me, she said
see me in white like a slice of
bread close-grained and resilient
‘neath your teeth as they sink.

Harder than she, but not very,
bleach bath in hand he asked, can you
lay down your life for me,
can you lay down?

Her frown intrinsic to her smile,
after a small while she slipped
into the tub, into the warm water
of his world.

See me in white, again she said, bathe me,
save me, raise my hopes.
Bleach bath in hand,
his assent was inevitable, intractable.

In sight, in white light together they sink
knowing full well a bed of soft bread
could cushion their way, pave their fall
with bleach and blood, risk and reminder

remaining intact, remaining, in fact,
true to their word, each
to love and to teach love,
to reach.


Three Lists


What I Brought

  1. A copy of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “So Far.”
  2. Three sticks of Buddhist incense that had been hand-delivered to me from Japan by a former lover.
  3. A single change of clothes thrown without thinking into a canvas bag.
  4. A week’s supply of Zoloft and Ativan.
  5. My journal.
  6. My marijuana pipe.
  7. The turquoise necklace Mary brought back for me from Scottsdale.

 What I Heard

  1. Gale saying very solemnly, “Be prepared,” bowing her head to me as I walked toward the dining room where Mary was lying in her hospital bed.
  2. The old-woman rasping and crackling of Mary’s wet lungs.
  3. Her husband’s surprised-sounding sobs.
  4. The mechanical ocean noises of the oxygen tank.
  5. Jeanne’s musical voice telling her daughter over and over how honored she was to have been her mother and that it was alright to die now.
  6. The familiar, precious echo of Mary’s speaking voice breaking through her unconscious attempts to cough.
  7. The anticipatory growl of thunder approaching from the north.
  8. The eventual release of rain on the leaves and earth outside the open dining room windows.
  9. The grinding of the hospital bed motor as we lowered the mattress after Mary had left us.

What I Said

  1. On arriving, entering the kitchen to meet the crumpled faces of my friends standing there, “Oh, is she getting ready to spread her wings?”
  2. To Mary when we were all together, “You have led an amazing life — you’ve done so much, we will all remember you.”
  3. Whispered to Mary, when we were alone, “You are standing in front of a gate to a beautiful garden and the key is in your hand. Open the lock and let yourself walk inside. The sun is shining there – go, go on.”



Joely Johnson Mork has been writing her way through the darkness since the time she could hold a pencil. Her poetry has appeared in a few journals here and there as well as on bathroom walls and scraps of paper shoved into bottles. Her personal essays on music, motherhood, and moving across the country have been broadcast on National Public Radio. Johnson Mork is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Seattle.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    December 19, 2013 3:50 pm


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