Monday, September 8, 2008

When Cancer dropped by for dinner

This was an exciting poem for me to publish. It won the journal Scribbendi's poetry contest and I was paid about$500.00 for it. that was exciting. This is one of Trevor's favorite poems too. He likes the ending - It is interesting to hear how people read the ending - I have heard a few different interpretations...again, I am not sure why these double space when I copy and paste them in here. This poem was also published early in 2008.

When Cancer Dropped By For Dinner

we set a plate

just for him,

a spoonful of mashed potatoes

and three yellowing

green beans—sensitive

to his perpetual nauseas.

But he overstayed his welcome

Lounging around in russet-orange

velour suits, gulping milk

straight from our jug, insisting

we all spend Friday night

curled on the couch, fetal position

in a dark living room where we lay

like tumors with no light or sound

to stave off headaches.

He took up his own shelf

in our medicine cabinet

for panacea and elixirs:

Temedor, Dexamethasone

and stomach-settling herbs

that smelled like week-old laundry.

He even climbed into our bed

between us, complaining

too hot, too cold,

pulling the comforter up only to pitch

it off again, so we spend nights shivering,

his knobby elbows bruising our ribs.

Over morning coffee he leers at us,

His flickering gaze wolfish,

and if he notices our red-rimmed eyes,

our sharp sighs, he grins and says,

Come on, you know me

I grew up with you

you’ve carried me piggyback

all these years,

long before you knew it.

So we have no one to blame

for his sunken-hollowed cheeks,

the waning-moon chest,

surgical scars, tufts

of thinning hair he leaves around our loft.

Sometimes I collapse at his feet,

cry and demand to know

when he will leave.

But he smiles, shrugs,

pats my head, and coughs up bile.

I am an ungracious hostess.

My husband is the gentleman,

he never leaves Cancer’s side,

attends to his every need—a glass

of Sprite at 2 AM, seven hours

at the hospital, whatever he demands,

never mentioning the hell he’s made our lives,

at least not out loud.

And while I curse Cancer’s

name in our hallways,

scream, and throw the butter dish

against the kitchen wall

the two of them

sit side by side, weighing down

the corner of the bed,

and sometimes, I swear, I see my betrayal

in both their eyes.


(This poem was also published Feb. 2008 - I am not sure why it turned into double-spaced formatting when I copied and pasted it in here. I also don't know how to keep the original line break formatting, blogger makes everything line up on the left hand side...)


We hiked the River Trail early

to beat the heat. And under

those Junipers, Red Maples,

and Quakies you turned suddenly,

a finger to your lips,

one hand fanned out to air.

whatever I was saying

about the bills we cannot pay

the doctor’s appointment we dread

the disease there is no cure for

cut off mid-complaint. So abruptly

for a moment, I thought the motion

was meant for us to give it all up.

But you stayed that way,

fingers unfurled, chin tipped

up and cocked to one side.

Over my own heavy breathing

I could hear the new brood call,

males singing for their mates.

And I kept waiting for you to speak,

declare some sort of answer,

affirm their hymn,

or rest my own worries.

But you only stood stock-still,

face lifted in some irenic

intoxication, and I realized

there was nothing really to say…

but that it was a whir,

a thrumming around us,

a buzz, a drone, a ring

a deep hum that swirled and spun

down and down inside my chest

with each breath I drew as we were swallowed

in the whirlpool of sound rising from the ground,

song, seventeen years kept,

then released all at once

in whirring wings.

Minnow - Published Feb. 2008


Those sweating summer

days where the petals

of garden snow peas curl in on themselves

like pursed pink lips my sister

and I would gather empty

five-gallon ice cream buckets,

pick up our jump ropes, and walk

through the fields – thirsty

stalks of goldengreen barley licking,

sticking, scratching our legs.

The canal crawled before us,

a muddy winding ribbon at our feet.

And we stood on the bridge above it,

looped the jump rope through

wire handles of empty cream

cartons and lay, belly-down

on sun-beaten boards to lower

our catching basket over the edge,

until it broke the film of old tractor oil

floating on the water

like liquid peacock feathers

and costume jewelry.

We waited, beads of sweat

boiling along our hairlines,

clinging to our cotton covered

backs, tasting in the corners

of chapped lips. We waited

until we saw the switches

of silver minnows swim

to rest in the bucket. Then we pulled,

lifting, giggling, and wrapping

the jump rope around our tiny arms.

We carried our catch home

careful not to spill

their darting, quivering

frail fish bodies out onto

cracked earth. We dumped

them in an old tank, filled

with canal water to make them feel

at home. They never

lived more than a couple days

before turning belly up,

their tiny scales reflecting,

fragmenting the sun.