Depression Session

Abby Caplin

 

The chopped apple of her father’s eye,
She tastes the grapes of her mother’s drunken wrath
The barely visible slivers of silver-tongued almond
Needle her intestines as she savors
The seedless watermelon of fruitless friendships,
And endures the hard rind 
Of a body gone awry, 
To be chewed and chewed until swallowed or
Spat out. A salad of sorts
Surrounded by lemons
Home-grown, organic, bitter
And full of juice. She brings me a tough
Clear plastic bag filled with them
To our session.
“They’re the last of the season,” she tells me.

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In the Pediatric Ward

In this forest of tubes and bottles,
Children wander in sleep.
A dying bird drops
From the corner of my eye.
The night nurse floats through paths
Tending the rooted tubes,
Weighing the pause between breaths.
In the dark, a man’s voice
Stuns like a hunter’s gun.
We wait for dawn.

Last night we cried–four worn children
Facing their walls, and I,
Handing out animal crackers.
Willow’s bones are flaking
John’s eye refuses light
Paige’s ears close up and
Something

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Death at a Distance

Your message hung on the phone line

like his striped shirt blowing
in the last wind of his life:
softly and with dignity.
His facial bones,
and body contours
he allowed to be chiseled
to an insubstantial sharpness
by the flow of chemicals and
the relentless labor of his disease:
both polished his body to dust.
Your life that has breathed that dust
for years will, someday,
carry it to the stars,
where it belongs.

About the poet:

Edwin Gardiner, a

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Medecins sans frontieres — Liberia, 2003

Les Cohen ~

I walk warily, 

searching for life
through smoking remains
of a jungle village.

My flashlight beam
slices the black haze
of equatorial darkness.
Was it Suakoko?
Fokwelleh?

No wind, rustle or drum
pierces the silence
of West African night.
Torched husks of thatched huts,
clay walls liquefied,
charred dog skeletons,
feet outstretched
as if running from Hell.
Stench of burnt flesh pervades,
stinging eyes and nostrils.

Soft

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Reflections From a Senior Citizen

I used to talk of fun and games

Now I talk of aches and pains.
I used to paint the town bright red
Now at nine I am in bed.

I used to dream of lovers bold.
Now if truth be told
The only men who interest me
Are those with a medical degree.

“Why,” you ask, “have they such clout?”
Well–we have so much to talk about:
There’s my arthritis and stenosis,
Hypertension, scoliosis.

In a cozy room, alone, we chat.
We never

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Babies

She tells me she wants to have a baby,

my daughter who was my baby
so many years ago.

Everything comes back to me–
the waiting, the wanting, the whisking
off to baby-earth, that angelic place,
passing through life
with its normal sounds, smells, and sights,
into the realm of women’s starlight, bright
as Polaris, a celestial universe of power,
revolving so far away
that only women with growing
babies under their swollen, milk-gorged breasts
could inhabit this land.

Just for

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Cleft

As Caroline was born

the doctor saw
the split
from lip to nose–
purple rimmed,
going down deep–
Deep enough
to hurt
generations.

And the imperfect doctor,
tired of wounds
tired of divisions,
saw the small
wholeness
Chose that moment
Chose tenderness
saying simply,
She is beautiful.

And the imperfect mother,
tired of pain,
held her child,
touched the tiny,
ragged face
Chose that moment
Chose acceptance
crying softly,
She is

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My Evidence

When I saw dust settling,

the road black and gritty,

and noticed the air
shimmering as it lowered closer to the earth

like a soft blanket suffocating
the damp September

mornings that had morphed seamlessly
into November’s

crowded table
of berries, sweets, and yellow corn,

just before the hospital
phoned to say that Mother had called my name,

familiar syllables
caught in her throat,

I’d already detected her leaving
in my own body

and so

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Reading Entrails

Sugar poisons

ruin your blood,
runs your legs
while you sleep,
revs your irregular
heart beat.

Maple sap, tree ripened
orange, dark chocolate,
honey dripping
from the comb
are not viable substitutes;
only abstinence
and the eleven day
skin crawl withdrawal.

Or an asymmetrical death:
one part at a time,
organ by organ,
memory fog,
the surgeons gnawing
like rats
at the leper’s limbs.

About the poet:

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in

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