Sergi hobbles now,
leaning on her four-pronged cane,
fighting off the sidewalk cracks and crabgrass
that she jokes "are out to get" her.
I am in Chicago when I get the phone call.
The voices warn, "Come quickly.
They're slicing through her brain tomorrow morning.
The doctors say no hope." No hope.
I take the first flight out and mourn her death.
The long trip home.
I mourn her death.
The doctors say no hope.
Sergi takes things slowly now,
ties her shoes one-handed,
conquers forks and phones and phonemes.
She learns that patience is no virtue.
It's a trial that's lined with terror.
Arriving at the airport back in Denver,
Thana says, "Don't even take the time to pee."
She whisks me off at highest speed,
but Janet's room is empty as a campaign speech.
I take the service elevator down in disappointment.
Next floor it stops -
They're wheeling in a gurney:
Janet, pale as babies cheeks.
She grits her teeth in recognition.
"It's not going to get me.
I'm going to be mean."
They cart her off.
She raises both her hands like Muhammad Ali.
"I'm going to be mean."
The doctors say no hope.
Sergi speaks more slowly now,
searching for her words
the way a Scrabble player hunts for double plays.
She sometimes can't remember who was there
or who is coming
or if she let the dog go out in time.
Although on certain things political,
she remains quite logical,
"Be very careful about Ronald Reagan.
A woman can catch brain tumors
just by thinking too long about Ronald Reagan."
The operation on her brain
Lasts longer than six hours.
The waiting room fills up with women,
old friends, ex-lovers, new-found allies.
L. Fowler paces all day long,
the goddess of the snake in hand.
She never gives up.
She never lets down.
She thinks she can prevent the death of Janet Sergi by herself.
We think we can prevent the death.
We sit in circles folding hands,
"sending energy" -
a euphemism that we substitute for prayer.
Janet Fons leaves the room uncomfortably.
Jackie St. Joan says, "What the hell; it's worth a try."
Thana warns that Janet also has the right
to die. And Ronnie cries.
And O'bie never cracks a joke.
The doctors say,
Sergi's softer now,
kinder with her friends and with the world.
She still throws plates across the room in anger
and has little mercy for the ones she thinks have done her wrong:
"There are three things you have to watch out for in this universe
Birth. Death. And Lover Stealers."
The doctors claim she'll need extensive care,
around the clock.
She cannot be alone.
The operation over.
The halls all lined with women.
The bandages around her head
are blinding as a snowstorm.
The wires all connected,
She takes my hand.
Her eyes are closed.
"Love me," she says. "Love me.
Sergi''s hairless now.
Her thick expressive hair,
the price of radiation.
Her fingers trace the nine-inch scar distractedly,
the quarter of the brain they have extracted.
She lives alone.
She goes to therapy.
She takes her meds.
She watches the TV,
comforts Lady Wolf, the dog.
Sometimes cooks a steak.
Women friends come days and nights.
Marg cleans house.
Kay goes shopping.
Fons does laundry,
Nina gives massage.
Thana fixes things.
Jackie signs the checks.
L. Fowler supervises.
And just the other day,
Janet came across a memory.
She said she saw old friends
sitting in a circle holding hands.
They were saying,