BellaOnline Literary Review
A Whale of a Tale by Kim Rumford


A Meditation on Chemical Death

Jeni Booker Senter

Jane answers her door wearing a floppy pink cap.
Her baby chick hair peeking out over one ear.
She tells me to come in, sit down, visit for a while.
Her eyes glisten as she eases down slowly into her chair
while my eyes are drawn to that patch of fuzz.
I remember her hair, glossy, black, sharply styled
when she would pick me up on Sunday mornings.
I glance at her hands, marred by fresh puncture wounds.
Her hands were thin, beautiful, long,
playing the piano and weaving baskets on Saturday evenings.
She tells me she is well, asks how I have been.
She wants me to go to church; I lie and say I will.
I can hardly sit still, keep looking her over
as if she were a still-life to study --
A meditation on chemical death.
The cancer came back.
It blossomed like a June rose
and spread like the vines of bluebells.
Deep into her armpits, through the lymphatic system,
burying itself deep into her brain and liver.
And now she rocks, gently rooted in her chair.
She smiles at me
while I bite my cheek and try not to cry.
Too soon it is time to go,
and she bends forward to kiss me.
I am amazed that she still smells like honeysuckles.

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Reader Feedback:

I remember once seeing a museum piece on the interior of the human body and was shocked by how much it resembled a coral reef. So much of your description honors this. The horrible power of cancer contrasts with the simple beauty of what still exists. I am very moved. The last line is a wonderful ending--brilliant.

this is simply poignant. the usage of flowers throughout the poem makes "Meditation on a Chemical Death" all the more tender. It touched my soul.
~stacey dye

Fall Equinox 2011 Table of Contents