Sorting Socks


My wife and children and I crammed ourselves into a small hotel room in southern Utah where I was attending a legal conference for a few days.  At three months pregnant, my wife should not have been having contractions, but she was having contractions–bad ones.  Soon they became unbearable.  We knew what it was and headed for the rural hospital, leaving the children in the care of their oldest sibling.  This poem weaves together that horrific experience with others to address our attempts to deal with physical and emotional pain.


You bend with a wince and whisper that
the pain has come again,
the pain in your side above your left hip,
the pain that halts your thoughts and your speech and your steps,
makes you breathe in short and sharp.
That pain again.

The pain began after your last child’s birth,
two years and eleven months ago.
It comes and it goes with caprice,
making a shouting arms-flung-wide appearance,
interrupting your reading and your cooking and your puzzle-piece placing
until it steps off its box and fades into the conquered crowd for awhile.

She did the ultrasound from inside.
I’m glad I wasn’t there.
“It wasn’t so bad,” you said, but
I’m glad I wasn’t there.

The technician warned she could see a shadow,
a shadow on the organ that wombed seven children,
and several more that came early or deformed
or not at all, like when in that tourist town clinic
you screamed for pain killers; you,
steadfast as a hundred-year oak in a hurricane; you,
determined as a heifer facing a driving snow; you,
who pushed out seven babies with not a pill or a shot;
you begged and moaned on the gurney
for something to make the pain go away.
The nice doctor made you babble and moan, and said to me,
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this once before.”
He brought you the baby that wasn’t, in a bottle,
and you sobbed and shook when he took it away.

After a gray week of waiting they said
you were fine: no growth, no shadow of a growth.
No reason for that pain.
You called me and cried, you felt stupid:
all that for nothing. If you had to go through all that,
at least it could be something instead of nothing.
I offered to cheer you, and told you that,
with my Trasks on my desk, I discovered
I had on one blue sock and one black.
You mumbled, “. . . stupid. I sort the socks.”
I meant to be cheery
but made you feel dumb.
That pain again.
I didn’t care how the socks were sorted—they were clean.
Next day I wore one black sock and one blue,
but thought it best not to mention it.

4 thoughts on “Sorting Socks

  1. Harv Russell

    Angie is a very brave and courageous woman. And having all those kids she has still maintained her poise and beauty. And you have done quite well yourself Rog.
    Your poetry tells it just as it is .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. maggiepea

    Life is difficult. That is the very first line in the book “The Road Less Traveled.” I doubt anyone escapes these horrific experiences life throws at us at the most in opportune times. What nerve, such interruptions! The agony Angie endured in a far away, unfamiliar place is heart wrenching. It makes the idea of mistakenly wearing mismatched socks appear good, to even have a covering on your feet. (As you alluded to, Roger.)
    Some days wearing mismatched socks is a big thing and other days not even worth noticing.
    This is a good gauge into what’s going on in life at the moment; we either care or do not care about socks. Some days we wouldn’t even care if our shoes didn’t match!
    I agree w/Harv, Angie is a strong, beautiful and very intelligent woman. She has weathered life’s storms with grace.

    Liked by 1 person


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