Tiff Holland


Is a shadow in a feather-suit, tickles
your ear when you’re sleeping, whispers
“Air” when you’re grounded, spinning,
nips your lips with its beak in the
ambulance, the Life-Evac helicopter.
It wakes you between the milky-
white drips of intravenous coma,
hungry it caws like a crow through
the hospital halls. Its tongue is split,
it speaks in tongues, it found you
when you were an infant and split
yours, only then could you “A-B-C”
dumb as a bird, as a fish, were you,
with your white-light youth, your rain
slender neck, the blue eyes of the, as
yet, unformed. Buzzard pecked them
black, sliced arms and legs from baby
fat, taught you how to walk, holding
your chubby arms with its wings. Now
Buzzard wants you back, whispers,
cajoles until they weigh the bed, subtract
your bones. Buzzard is the six ounces that
is missing, that some people call soul, the
flat-line on the EKG kicking back at the
paddles. No one touches Buzzard who eats
rat poison and flies through your capillaries,
finds the clots behind your eyes, in your brain
and leaves its scat like Fat Man and Little Boy,
napalm rain. Buzzard is the Maltese Falcon
sititng statue in a bottle tree not put off like
haints and curses. Buzzard is granite, is
onyx, breaks the branches of the tree but
is still light enough to fly.



There are no flowers in the ICU
not even balloons on the brain unit.
There are cards at home,
my husband explains.
We didn’t expect you to wake up
But on the bedside table
construction paper traced cutouts,
blooms of my five-years old’s hands,
explode from the make-shift vase
of a cafeteria paper cup
each palm scotch-taped
to one of the neon bendy straws
we keep in a drawer
under the coffee pot.
That I remember:
where we keep the straws

My husband tells me where I am
every time he comes in the room.
I have forgotten the swallowing test,
the walk down the hall,
his other visits,
the morning everything happened.
But suddenly, I remember waking up,
being ordered to cough
just like on television
as the tube was pulled out
like a plumber’s snake down a drain
as my husband’s arm braced my back
his arm cupped my shoulder
now breathe.


Tiff Holland‘s poetry and prose have appeared in dozens of literary journals. Her poetry chapbook Bone In a Tin Funnel is available through Pudding House Press. Her short-short fiction chapbook Betty Superman won the 2010 Rose Metal Press Award.

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