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Final Summons (for Mom)

Karuza, Colleen M.

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000320589.28926.ce
Poetry By Cancer Caregivers

The world of poetry is a means of expression and source of comfort for many who care for cancer patients. We welcome submissions from oncologists, oncology nurses, oncology pharmacists, and other cancer caregivers. E-mail only, please, to:, and include your affiliation/title, address, and phone number, along with a photo, if available.

The corpse is breathing, not me.

I'm trembling more than the hand I'm holding,

kneading skin trussed with bone.

Duty Unfailing and Demise Most Certain

watch for signs to let go.

My daughter's a cancer specialist,

my father announces to passersby,

like us, talc-white from neck to knee.

We're huddling he and I in the I-C-U,

my acronym for InterCession Underground.

He's here to bargain with the deity.

I'm here to assess and report.

In art, illness has trim, accessories –

Nickel-gray horse blankets, the overcoats of street snow.

Twin beds cranked to a lazy W.

A polka dot housedress in an open closet.

Mustard yellow pitchers on custard brown trays.

First-line, second-line, third-line treatments

entangled and knotted.

Gestures hang on timepieces.

On screen and on page,

Death has presence.

Mild and lilylike,

She whispers words of great import, reminders of love,

disclosures of assets, interment directives.

What is spoken is marshmallow-soft,

set aloft from a noble head

on a satin pillow

on a canopied bed

in a room of dark majesty

in plain view of a gnarled oak

brushing a bay window.

Not here.

I tell my father what I see—

a body erased of markings, a face hollowed of expression.

Where is her pod? I ask.

Tell them. Tell them! he begs.

Tell them what? No one told ME.

I stepped off a plane into someone's nightmare.

What do they want?

A password? A weather report?

The name of my hotel? Someone to identify the body?

I've lost my luggage, my miracle grip, too,

i say stupidly.

Please, I need time to find out who she is, why I'm here, who I should call.

There is no time.

Her breathing, suffering from a bad limp, slumps.

Chairs collapse. Father disappears.

Dimes of light assist our exit.

My brother, the roommate, touches my shoulder. Wait.

His eyes are red geysers,

crackling smoky, secret truths.

Last night, she gave me her blanket.

Did I hear what he said?

Last night, she gave me her blanket.

Rising above his voice is another's.

You're shivering, honey. Take it. Take it.

Six yellow roses –

Mama's favorite –

drop petals like tears

at the Nurses' station.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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