Monday, July 30, 2007

Three Poems: Priscilla Frake

And Still, I Can Hardly Believe

it actually happened;
I wanted, desperately,
to be anywhere else
but that gurney,
about to be delivered

of my tumors. I wanted
to skip my appointment
with Dr. Poison
and his gag assistants:
hair loss, bloating, and vomit.

I wanted to escape the machine
that caressed me with damaging neutrons.
I’d like to spit out the elixir
for aging, the sepia pill
I take every day to prevent

a recurrence. I want to pretend
I’m immortal, and normal,
but I’m here as it happens,
outside the garden looking in
to where azalea blossoms

drop along the walk like burned-
out matches; and my daughter,
caught in the shadow
of the iron gate,
turns her flower face to me.

* * * * *

Inanna’s Descent

Based on a passage about the Mesopotamian goddess, Inanna,
in Close to the Bone by Jean Shinoda Bolen

At each gate I leave something behind:
innocence, hair,
my breasts. I descend
without a guide

through fluorescent waiting rooms,
and enter a maze of corridors
walled with scuffed cinderblock
and the incomprehensible

names of diseases.
At each desk I surrender
a watch, a ring, a purse,
daylight, health.

I am strung up with tubes
and left hanging.
I am laid out on a table
and given to the knife.

None of the guardians
tapping away at computers,
shoving forward papers
can tell me why.

None of the presiding gods of that place,
complacent in their sterile coats,
will venture if
or even how.

It is up to me to learn
what is being born
as I labor in the belly of the hospital,
nine months in treatment.

It is up to me to decide
if I should wail and shake
my empty cup on a dismal corner
or stride like a queen through the underworld

and claim my exile.

* * * * *

What My Hand Knows

My fear lacks claws, fangs,
or baleful eyes. It takes the shape
of a rose window: a stained glass
honeycomb of vibrant cells
back-lit in the mind’s blue gaze;
one cell distorted and branching, growing
too fast.

As I sat idly sketching, my hand
drew this image before my mind recognized
what it saw. Two years out from chemo,
I walk through a labyrinth, a minefield.
Any step could rip my life apart.

I keep my fear before me
as it oozes, darkly,
forward into darkness.
It knows the way and I do not.
I follow, lightly.


~ Priscilla Frake's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary publications in the U.S., including Atlanta Review, The Sow╩╝s Ear Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and The Sun. Her work has also appeared in journals in Great Britain and Ireland including: The New Welsh Review, Cutting Teeth, Orbis, Cyphers, and Deliberately Thirsty. She has lived in New York, New Mexico, California, Texas, West Virginia, China, and Scotland. Her chapbook, Argument Against Winter was published by Cloud in the U.K


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