Keeping the Cancer Letter to Myself

Sam Hamod

           (for my late mother, Zinab)

 

It’s as if
I can hold time back
 as if
I can keep that letter in my briefcase as if I can
keep my mother
still alive
upstairs in the white room, as if
I can still hear
her blood soaked
cough           want to tell her
it is something that will pass, lie to
her, tell her the letter is good,
the treatments will
work, tell her that we’ll make
that trip to Romania
get some of those “miracle drugs” we keep
reading about,
that we’ll sit on the front porch again
in the spring marvel        at the clarity of air,
talk about when she was a little girl in Iowa
when the circus would come to field across
the road, when she raised her brothers
and sisters after her mother died
when she was nine – baking bread each morning
and each year the exciting circus would return –
that we’ll get her passport ready
it will be a long flight we can – then
there’s that deep wrenching cough
again
And I’ll lie
again, tell her that she’s worried for nothing
that the pain in her stomach is only
gas, I’ll choke up again
unable to talk
turn away     my swelling throat
tight, unable to – then we’ll
strain out talk of dandelions and grapeleaves
we’d pick when I was a boy, by the river in Iowa,
by the roadsides in Indiana, then she
falls asleep, moves fitfully
Go back to my briefcase      not open it
wish the letter away –
now that she’s passed, that
briefcase sits, full of papers, unopened, but my eyes blur in this
poem
because in this life
there are some things we never fully close

 

   

photo by Kristen Scott

 

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