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Poems

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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Apologies

Alex Okun

You were right.
That IV was no good.
Looking at his arm all swollen like that,
I thought, “That says it all.”

I’m sorry we kept bothering you.
“Please don’t wake him for vitals,”
You told us.

Sometimes we don’t see the signs.

I was hoping she would stay home longer,
That you would have had more time together.
She liked starting school every September.
She loved that backpack.

I’m sorry it always took so long
To get into the room.
I’m sorry I took so long to call you back.
I liked our

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Tree Years

Addeane Caelleigh

We used to trade off, 
she said.

He hated trees dying in our living room. 
I always loved the blue spruces
decorated on my December birthday

But his father fell near theirs
dying in their living room
one childhood night. 

So we’d have a year with tangled lights, a crooked stand
he sometimes helped me put together
Then a year with presents stacked on the corner table,
with no dry needles to sweep.

Turn and turn again
a solstice pendulum.
A ring for each alternating year

That was before the fog that eats my

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Running Out of Metaphors

Howard F. Stein

His rapidly metastasizing cancer
was not his only problem:
He was not only running out
of life, he was running out of metaphors.
Metaphors had sustained him
for the four months since
they discovered the spot.
He started out 
losing weight as “The Incredible 
Shrinking Man”; then he became
Gregor Samsa for a while;
briefly he was the consumptive Violetta,
soon followed by Ivan Ilych.
He even remembered Susan Sontag 
and Solzhenitsyn and so railed
at his wasting. He leaped
from metaphor to metaphor the way
a stone skips over water. He asked

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