Academic journal article African American Review

Sciatica

Academic journal article African American Review

Sciatica

Article excerpt

The shade pull grazed liniment bottles on the window ledge. Moonflowers blossomed on the porch. I massaged Mother's back Between dusk and dawn, pain stretched from the small of her back around her hips and down her thighs until her every move ached. I fluffed feather pillows as she shifted, gingerly, trying to nestle, but the mattress dipped where she most needed support; the sickbed whined stiffly as she cried out in her sleep. Her pain was more than I could bear, so I piled linens, shirts, and house dresses in a willow basket and ironed all night.

Earlier, on tiptoes, clothespins between my lips, I had reached for the fine and felt as if wind could carry me to that river she longed to cross. Sheets rippled in the morning breeze. By noon though, the devil was beating his wife; but instead of weeping, she laughed a shower in the sun. Damp, hastily folded sheets billowed in my basket as if storm clouds. An evening's worth of ironing. My weary forearm weighed down on the crumpled cotton, pushed the iron faster, faster across the shaky board, past my tense gut as night wore on.

Each time Mother groaned, sweat beaded on my upper lip and heat engulfed me, though I had stripped to my slip and a fan hummed on the kitchen table. After each moan came a labored sigh, a breath I held until her snoring recommenced or the quilt rustled against her restless body. I parted the cafe curtains and peered at the moon. …

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