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Kate Benham


You pour a cup of pecans
Like a kid catching raindrops
In a bucket.
Careful not to spill,
Your fingers playing tremolo on a 
Violin-string cup measure.

Your bed-tucked
Mouth, warm, with
Tongue searching the lips
For forgotten first lines of bedtime stories
Like misplaced glasses, resting on your head.
I read to you, now,
In hospital beds.

Forehead wrinkles stacked 
In three creases--
Your crossword face,
Mouth-chewed pencil between your lips,
Scooping for synonyms 
As you now scoop sugar.

Patient tablespoons of vanilla
Heaped with the effort
Of standing up for fifteen minutes

Love spelled in spilled flour
By hairless eyelid blinks.

This mother's day coffee cake
Streuseled with memories of able-bodied bike rides
Suspended in white hospital gauze.
It tastes like antiseptic and cinnamon. 
This baking is labor
For the hands of a heart surgeon
Too tremored to hold a scalpel,
Hold a measuring cup,
Hold on.

His life 
Preciously poured,
Savored in my mouth
Even as it slides down 
My throat--
Swallowed.


About the poet:

Kate Benham graduated from Stanford in 2009 with a degree in feminist studies. She is currently working for a women's health nonprofit in India and applying to medical school. She started writing poetry in a Chicana poetry workshop during her senior year of college. This is her first published poem

About the poem:

"During my senior year of college, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone-marrow cancer. I started writing as a way of processing the feelings I felt I couldn't share with any of my peers, as so few were experiencing similar circumstances."

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro