We take turns holding her cold thin hands, marvel at how close 
the muscles and bones are to the skin. When we noticed 
her body becoming lighter at first we thought 
she was transforming into a bird. Her bones 
becoming hollow wooden whistles like the spine of a kite.
            She was so susceptible to updrafts.

From her perspective it was the world itself that was flying out of her, 
fluttering off to the next well-kept garden. Her skin growing 
fragile like the creases of a well-used map, her body revealing itself 
            to be only a modest cocoon for something larger.

Stay with us.     We whispered, 
even though we knew the hum of the oxygen machine was 
            the starting of an engine too big to understand us.

Keely Hyslop has been published by A Leery Pistol Press, Quiet Lightning, 400 Words, and Forth Magazine. She is currently enrolled in the creative writing MFA program at San Francisco State University. Her first book, Things I Say to Pirates On Nights When I Miss You, will be published by Fourteen Hills Press in the fall of 2011.


"When the World Inside Her Leaves Us" was written in honor of my aunt, Kathy McDonald who recently passed away after a long, brave battle with cancer. The poem grapples with the frightening, beautiful, and ultimately incomprehensible changes that we observe in our loved ones as their bodies prepare for death.



Copyright 2009