itís the little things


When wrapping presents

or mostly now just the presents for your birthday,

I always press down on the tape

with the most gentle care,

in the same way the nurses did,

years earlier,

when pressing tape to your sunken cheek

to keep your feeding tube in place.


I do this only with tape.

Rubber bands and safety pins have lost their meaning,

although they meant just as much

back then.

Maybe because no one really uses rubber bands

or safety pins any more,

outside of the hospital. 

I only get rubber bands around junk mail

and broccoli stalks.  What joy is there

in broccoli stalks?

As for safety pins, sometime as a grandparent

I will mention safety pins and your children will ask,

ďWhatís a safety pin?Ē

and I will smile and think of carbon paper.

If the memories have survived in my head,

I will also see the two safety pins in your tiny knit hat

and the rubber bands looped around them

which held the breathing tubes to your mouth.


So much technology to keep you alive. 

Millions spent

in developing monitors, regulators, pumps and medicines;

in years of training doctors and nurses;

in building hospitals, elevators, carts, and hallways;

all dependent on

tape, rubber bands, and safety pins.


You donít know this, youíre only four,

already four,

but when I cup your face in my hand

and stroke your cheek with my thumb

Iím feeling for the tape.

I do this as often as I can

knowing in just a few years, maybe when youíre twelve,

youíll stop me because youíre embarrassed.

And then Iíll have to wait years,


until Iím old and you let me touch you

as I want to touch you

out of respect for my age

and fear for the loss of my touch,


I will cup your face in my hand

and stroke your cheek with my thumb,

and be happy that I feel

no tape.