Second Round of Chemo
My brother wants to remember
our life—the marshmallows
we roasted on a stick,
browning them, their soft, sweet
taste in our mouth,
the coals beneath, soft and warm.
He wants to hold
onto Yesterday as I want to hold
onto him, but I’m not with him.
I’m twelve hundred miles away
where, after the call, at dawn
I go out to pick the blueberries,
some pale green, some plush blue
that fall from clusters into my hand,
each with a round mouth puckered at the end.
I go stem by stem, the weight of berries
bend the branch. I lighten the load.
It’s the least I can do.
Then to the raspberries,
I stick my hand deep into the thorny stems,
red juice of them staining my fingertips,
whole fistfuls giving themselves up,
fall in the bowl,
like Eve with those apples, the smell of them,
wanting them all in her hand,
the ripeness, the sweetness,
this the third week in July
when the cancer came back, not good,
the insistent cells proliferate
as those of the fruit in my hand.
Tomorrow, I will pour
them over my granola, the blue red
staining the whiteness of milk
the bittersweet taste of fruit
as my brother, back in a sterile ward,
has the metallic aftertaste in his mouth,
his skin desiccated
like those marshmallows that flamed, too hot,
melted, ashes to fire.
(Bruce Spang, former Poet Laureate of Portland, is the author of two novels, The Deception of the Thrush and Those Close Beside Me. His most recent collection of poems, All You’ll Derive: A Caregiver’s Journey, was just published. He’s also published four other books of poems, including To the Promised Land Grocery and Boy at the Screen Door (Moon Pie Press) along with several anthologies and several chapbooks. He is the poetry and fiction editor of the Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. His poems have been published in Connecticut River Review, Red Rover Magazine, Great Smokies Review, Kalopsia Literary Journal and other journals across the United States. He teaches courses in fiction and poetry at Ollie at University of North Carolina in Asheville and lives in Candler, NC with his husband Myles Rightmire and their five dogs, five fish, and thirty birds.)
The Beautiful Space-