Aaron Reeder writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico. His poems have appeared in Washington Square Review, Literary Orphans, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and others. He is the author of the chapbook DAWN (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2015) and is Editor-in-Chief of Blue Mesa Review.
My father lays there
in the hospital bed with a borrowed
grin. The oncologist on-call
just explained what hypercalcemia is,
how it’s common at the terminal stage.
He’s a gardener
throwing seed in a bare yard,
watching his words take root
and grow through my family.
When he leaves the room,
my mother sits quietly, then asks
Whenthe time comes, will they
fill him up with drugs? She asks because
I work in a hospital pharmacy.
I tell her yes, but not to an end.
He’s untangling. We’re better off
thinking of it as dance. Is it different
for each kind of cancer, the dance
they go off to learn? No, but we all follow
an instructor’s lead.
She’s searching for a biblical reference.
So I speak to her about that one valley
with the dim light, I’ve since moved on
from, how we’re all there.
Is that why his legs shake all the time?
From the calcium floating
around in his brain? She’s distracted.
We’re all going down
in our own storm of legs. I see.
But she doesn’t. Perhaps when I
said dance she heard machine-assisted
breathing, has mistaken valley
for epinephrine. Or that’s me.
Have you ever seen him
in a good suit? The pain
scale tailors well, like any three piece
with a flower in the breast pocket.
Failed Poem for My Mother
Can we say love
to each other, though I picture one
of our legs
caught in the trap? And if
love then the gunfire
of our tongues, always in need
of a place to hide,
always the smoke
from the barrel of each letter.
I must admit, that lately,
when I say your name
I see the day
you dropped a plate,
and in a rush to save it,
stabbed your hand
on the just shattered porcelain.
I am looking
for a way to shatter
in a rush of hands. Looking
for your blood
in my pieces. But to know
I am in pieces has been enough.
On nights where I think the same
black blood and clotted
tissue spreads through my colon,
I wonder if we were
in the same room
not breathing, not searching
for a way to care for each other,
if we’d just take it in: You,
not trying to make living easier.
Me: stop believing
that living gets easier.