SPOTLIGHT: Tethered to the Unexpected: poetry about illness by Roxana Cazan


(the doctor said it could take
the rest of her life) (that it will take
the rest of your life) (that this illness
will take away and take away) (and your
life and hers will be fused at the edges)
(are fused just before the fraying) (that it will
grab) (and grasp) (and seize) (and snatch)
(until the illness becomes her only
life) (and it becomes your only
rest) (and the doctor said) (not knowing
that this illness is beyond words)
(and his language turned yellow) (with
the saying) (and the doctor’s words throttled)
(in his thimble throat) (as he said that this life)
(hers or yours or whosever) (is just a pinprick
on a specked flame) (a fib, a skiff)
(and it’s just gone one day as if
it never was) (and that’s just
a fine way) (to disappear)

The Body as Water

Some days the windows
don’t withstand the rain,
this slithering ink that marks
your flesh with permanence,
strong as ocean, in this sick room
where you are bound and prone
and empty. Some days the rain
is an extension of your body,
river maundering close to tomb,
loyal to no one, blunting the granite
breath with which you huddle.
You seep through the fibers, run into grit,
thin like mulch but still
holding your shape.
Though at first you believed
you are anything but cold estuary,
you have run your courses home,
your shields ground into clay,
all bones chipped to arrowhead.
You have walked this mound yourself,
stones wedged between mountaintop
and your open arms, palms clammy,
all moisture oozing from
the infused body. In the end,
when you shall have become ocean,
your waves bobbing over
the razor-sharp gills of snapper
and perch, you will paste the summer
over all this ill sadness
stoic and supine,
knowing everything shall pass.
Then, in the waters of your darkest night
you’ll give into a nod of limestone,
and let salt build you a new home
of roe and mother-of-pearl and all
things slimy and womb-like,
and you’ll forget about this pain,
here, specked with bits of life.


her mouth lips around the curve
of words plump vowels

stay put fingers reach for the ceiling

her cloak unfurls and she’s
floating the woman captive in a Chagall
muddling the waters green

she stops paying the bills

she stops washing her hair

stops falling asleep

under fingertips her skin blooms
into bruises
frozen dark like hyacinths
her feet swell to the size of balloons

in the early evening she steps
out onto the porch waiting
for the plane to hover over
send down a thin stretched line
the thickness of spun spider thread
and whisk her to a safe space
one coated warm for survivors

mad orioles shrieking on the lawn
watch her disappearing
into the road’s white ink

or maybe the clinic’s white rustle


It wasn’t the crack and snap,
the splintering of timber or
the weight shedding as the limbs arched
to fill the space close to ground,
but I tell my husband, I tell him
that I don’t even know this tree,
its kind, perhaps an elm the way
it fanned into the sky, the twist
of lichen, the healing lacebark cuts.
It was that drab rain, the cold
drumming against the windows,
the shingles & spouts, the silence
of my child’s winter nap, like an opening
of the lungs to frightening breath
and the ice storm that came
while we weren’t ready.
When the light goes off and stays
off for days, the tree stump sparkles,
the diamond leaves the only beautiful
crumbs of this ice pandemic,
in Oklahoma, where we wake up
to cold coffee & broken trees & more dead.


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