I stare at my chicken patty, the limp lettuce, pale tomato sliver, open the small mayonnaise packet, even though I don’t eat mayonnaise. I pour my milk, set the carton on the table, slide aside the red Jell-O. If I don’t look up, I won’t be where I am. Father wears a blue dress shirt, not his own, stares, not speaking, not noticing the shirt is buttoned wrong, brown stain on the front. His hair
In a box she waits, Neither dead nor alive, Until observed. In three months, The box opens. Tested, probed, scanned, She learns the cancer has recurred, In which case she is dead. Or it has not returned, In which case she is–not alive. Boxed in once more, Neither dead nor alive, She again awaits the allotted period Until the box is opened, A quantum superposition which only death Can collapse into a state of certainty.
The last time we talked she said she wanted every bone in her body to break. And so I picture her on a ledge flirting with the idea of flying, knowing she admires the flitting of butterflies from one pollen hive to another I watch her wings open and close open and close like they are breathing like her wings are lungs
I never grew Virginia creeper, this twining shiny vine rapidly unfurling its five-leafed bouquet, yet it crept into my garden, stealthily wrapping its strong tendrils round stems and bushes and trees in lusty demanding embrace, attaching onto the house foundation, embedding into cement and wood.
This boy of mine tried to be a sportsman. Jane and I watched his team, heedless ducklings clutching plastic bats behind the T-ball, the ball up high, right there where they couldn’t miss it, but they did. When shouts from other parents roused us from our chat, we tossed encouragement into the ballfield’s air, no matter whose kid got a hit. Things got serious the next summer, one level up onto the honest-to-God Little League
You are a big man, a little heavy, but nothing that can’t be fixed by daily, brisk walks or swept away by a dose of cancer and a blast of treatment. You have been called from your glass enclosure to help me. A productive, bronchial cough is still with me–too long. Chinese practitioners call this a lurking pathogen tossing antibiotics into my weary kidneys to excrete as a mindful French woman with her midday steamed
In Central Park twilight, we drop our holiday mood like a heavy sweater in the heat when that call sends us reeling as leukemia sucks us into its bell jar, rings our ears, jangles minds, reverberates into bone. We can’t lower that volume but distraction is at hand– tickets to Porgy and Bess— though I forget it begins with a knife fight.
My first day on the wards, the senior resident handed me a white coat emblazoned with the twin serpents of Asclepius, and a stethoscope I proudly draped around my neck. I thought I knew everything about the dying patient assigned to me. I listened studiously to John Doe’s lungs filling rhythmically from a little machine with a red diaphragm that pumped up and down and made a hissing sound that reminded me of the snakes