Wanting to Be Lovely

Breast budding, spring leaves,

twelve, too young for babies,
she grasps her pillow to her belly,
the smell of the first crocuses,
the last cardinal’s song
echoes from the hawthorn.
The lemons whisper in her ear
before she squeezes, rubs
the rinds on her damp skin,
her hand touches nylon,
lace, a mirror image river,
a windowless desire:
the first stirring of her fingers
between her thighs, the robins’
annual return becomes monthly.

About the poet:

Kenneth P. Gurney

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The Limits of Medicine

I can not change the color of the sky.

The texture of the rain, the distance of a star
must needs be fixed by ancient ritual
unaccepted by our modernity.

I can not change the length of your night.
The number of hours, the days of your life
are set by stern fate, impassive to sighs,
unsympathetic, and cold to your plight.

I can not count the breaths that are left.
Day into day, year into frightened morn,
only you, in your heart can know
the obscurity of the sand that now sifts.

I can not

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Now a lightness

4:57 am, Sunday

This week went
from caring with hope 
for a lucid patient to facing 
reality in advocating sanity 
to an insane extended 
family to haggling with specialists
to giving up time
and again telling Mary 
she was dying and then watching
her cling to her lost life like
everyone else to 
finally withdrawing all care
except for comfort 
and comforting the now lucid family 
while the breaths became 
distant
and the pauses

prolonged
and everyone 
cried, including myself, 
when 
the last one 
left. 

It was raining
when they called me. The family 
said it

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Failure to Thrive

My matched set of nonagenarians 

is almost two hundred years old
and nearing escape velocity.
They are failing to thrive with a vengeance.

They have outlived everyone
except the powers of attorney
for whom they are a source of consternation.

Their constipation is prune-proof.
They scratch where it itches till it bleeds 
and call on me to staunch the bleeding. 

They can’t recall our earnest conversations.
Adult Protective Services 
elicits 

their indignation reflex. They ready, aim
and fire 
their walkers at the social worker.

Pride goes before their falls.
They hoard. 
In their home every room

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Does the Buddha Play Pool?

Come Medicine Buddha

Come shine your rays upon me
Penetrate deep within my body
To quell my queasy stomach
And soothe my aching bones.

Let those golden arrows
Shoot deep within my frame
Extinguishing the round tumors
That live inside of me.

Like a pool cue poised and ready
Aim straight for the triangle
Number 6 in right side pocket
Red 4 to far left corner.

Knocking away each colored ball
Dropping steadily into the pockets
Clearing away the hard assortment
Until only white and black remain.

The 8 ball holding fast
White blood cell gearing

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Mistaken Identity

Surgery finished,

I finally sleep

Pushing my shoulders,
the technician wakes me 

“Come now, we need 
a chest x-ray”

Smiling, she pulls me 
into position

The x-ray machine
tight against me

Finally getting a chance, 
I ask what she is doing 

“Oh,” she says “I have
the wrong one

You are not a 64
year old male”

Lying me down, 
she walks away

As I fall back to sleep,
I wonder, now bald

what I must 
look like

About the poet:

Kathleen Grieger has published poetry in many venues, including Free VerseCaduceusBlood and

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Cure

Veneta Masson

In Latin it means care,
conjures priests and temples
the laying on of hands
sacred pilgrimage
sacrifice
the sickbed
invalid and
solemn attendants.

How far we have come.
Today’s English 
has neatly expunged 
these purely human elements.
Cure is impersonal, consequential
unequivocal, sometimes violent–
the annihilation 
of the thing that ails.

This nurse 
approaching the patient
has discarded temple garb
for practical scrubs. 
His gloved hands 
unsheathe the magic bullet,
shoot it through the central line
where it locks onto the target cells.

For the not-yet-cured,
there is still sacred pilgrimage–
that dogged slog

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Listening

 Elizabeth Szewczyk

I couldn’t erase their words,
catch the breath atoms, stuff
them between lips,
couldn’t raise survival rates,
lottery odds dependent on cells suctioned
at the precise moment.

Your chest thumping, frantic,
valves siphoning warmth, drawing
cold through vessels, to your feet
crisping leaves beneath us while
you spoke her life.

Replaying slowly, baby girl, toothless
smile, creative toddler scissoring
Barbie hair (and styling hers to match).
Then, like a runner, sprinting 
to that day the tumor revealed
itself, unveiled her future and yours.

You visioned her mane, now extinct,
loose, straight, gracing the crook

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The Women of Victoria Ward

Muriel Murch

I remember 
The women of Victoria Ward.

The laughter of Liz,
before there were good prostheses
before falsies
left, right or bilateral
were built into the cup size of your choice.
Pacing the corridors
and knitting.
Ready to go home.
Building her strength
with a strand of yarn 
Tumbled upwards from the empty cup
against that scarlet scar
beneath the bodice 
of her bright summer dress.

I remember 
Winnie’s eyes
watching feces pour
in a torrent
down her abdomen
searing her flesh
until I bathed her body
changed the bed
and wiped away
her

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