if Considerable Bleeding Occurs
by Betsy Housten
Press gauze on the wound, firmly, for twenty minutes.
Remember the periodontist warned you this might happen
when she grafted the replacement tissue for your thin
receded gums from your own palate. Grip the lip
of the sink, tongue the metallic tang that indicates
you are bleeding profusely from the roof of your mouth.
Refrain from calling out: no one is home, and you do not
want to dislodge the gauze. Once your saliva runs clear,
discard the sopping red wad and stumble to the couch.
Let your heart rate slow in the dark. When you hear a key
in the door—your girlfriend arriving with applesauce
and soup—tell her what happened, even though she will
drop her bags and panic, dismiss the post-operative
instructions and insist you call 911 because she
had a friend who died after surgery like this. Look into
her eyes, wild with fear, for two to three minutes.
Squeeze your palms down the taut coils of her arms
until her ragged breath comes smooth. You will not need
the hospital but you must forgive her, because the way
she loves you is not up to you, and she is not
your father. She isn’t.
Betsy Housten is a Jersey-born, Brooklyn-bred queer femme writer and massage therapist. Her work has been published in Little Red Tarot, Ellipsis, NILVX, We’ll Never Have Paris, Hoax Zine, and Soon Quarterly. She was also a finalist for the 2017 Samuel Mockbee Nonfiction Contest. Betsy lives in New Orleans, where she is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry.