Vocational Training

I sound so much like my mother
that when people called our house for help,
I’d have to stop them halfway through
their stories. Hold on, I’d say, I’m not her.
When I went with her on calls, I hovered
in doorways, holding her equipment, watched
her walk to the center of what was wrong.
I knew I could memorize facts, anatomy,
the math of giving oxygen or shock,
but I needed her to teach me what the body
wanted. What I learned was common sense:
Apply pressure to bleeding. Stay as calm
as you can. I’ll never have her hands,
the power I saw her wield, but sometimes
I feel her voice in my mouth: Get some ice
and you’ll be fine. It doesn’t need stitches,
it’s only a scratch. Even when I’m the one
speaking, my mother’s voice knows what to do.

— Carrie Shipers, "Vocational Training"

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