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 ladder, raucous parents
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 leeks.
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
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 embroidered on my collar.
I grew to
No power-down switch to arrest
That incessant activity of the mind and senses
Not even for our wedding anniversary
At the airport my eyes reflexively dart
From the cashier’s cheery smile to fix on her arm
Laid bare by her Dunkin’ Donuts uniform
And the glaring track-mark trail
As she carefully hands me my scalding hot coffee.
On board American Airlines my ears instinctively pinpoint
That paroxysmal brassy cough of the man in seat 20C
Why is it always the last call of the day,
Bag packed by the door, and sometimes I’ve even put my coat on,
And then I know that I have to make the call.
If I was smart, I’d schedule a visit, have the nurse set up a time
To have the patient drop by after the test is done,
If only I was smart!
But today it is too late for that, Friday night,
And a weekend of intolerable waiting
After my husband’s ocular stroke,
we wondered about the risk of a “real one.”
said the busy physician.
“What can we do?”
“Take a baby aspirin–
and live life to the fullest.”
We took this prescription to the pharmacist,
who gave us the aspirin
but added, “You’re on your own for the rest.”