TATA | Christopher Adamson


On a windy late-November afternoon

a sparrow crashes into our window

falling, wing broken, to the balcony floor

Mama takes it to the roof and wrings

its neck, then looks defiantly up at the

sky and pegs the laundry to the line

while you, terminal and bone-weary, sleep through

live coverage of shootings on the six o’clock news.

When the January sun brightens

the frozen city below, Mama shows me

the list you made for the hospital:

cubes of sugar, Listerine and a comb

toothbrush, warm socks, an obscure

post-Hegelian book

crinkled snapshots of Mama and me

sitting on a deserted pebble beach

somewhere on the Baltic shore.

On nights she works late

slicing chicken parts for soup

whispering to ghosts, her yellow

gloves hiding the blue

ink sewn into her forearms

I go to St. Joseph’s on my own.

You are asleep on the narrow bed

wizened, weakened and wounded

bruises in the crook of your arm

from the nurses, their needlework.

Feeling a chill in the room, I check

to see if the cast-iron radiator is warm

the nihilist in me wondering if it’s

you the doctors see, or just one of

Arshile Gorky's emaciated faces.

Ontology can be nightmarishly opaque

but as you once patiently explained

we exist simultaneously in three worlds:

The world in which we are but facts

Our world, Tata, the one you and I created together

My world, one in which little is certain

except that you will live on in me.


Christopher Adamson is a sociologist and a fiction writer. His essay “Existential and clinical uncertainty in the medical encounter: An idiographic account of an illness trajectory defined by inflammatory bowel disease and avascular necrosis” was published in the Sociology of Health and Illness (Volume 19, March 1997). He is also the author of a novella, The Road to Jewel Beach (Exile Editions, 2004). His short stories appear in Ontario Review, Exile Literary Quarterly and Hart House Review. His poem “Ode on a Styrofoam Cup” appeared in the Fall 2017 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine.