In the chemo room, I wear mittens made of ice so I don’t lose my fingernails. But I took a risk today to write this down.
Whenever I spend the day crying,
my friends tell me I look high. Good grief,
they finally understand me.
Even when the arena is empty, I thank god
for the shots I miss. If you ever catch me
only thanking god for the shots I make,
remind me I’m not thanking god. Remind me
all my prayers were answered
the moment I started praying
for what I already have.
Jenny says when people ask if she’s out of the woods,
she tells them she’ll never be out of the woods,
says there is something lovely about the woods.
I know how to build a survival shelter
from fallen tree branches, packed mud,
and pulled moss. I could survive forever
on death alone. Wasn’t it death that taught me
to stop measuring my lifespan by length,
but by width? Do you know how many beautiful things
can be seen in a single second? How you can blow up
a second like a balloon and fit infinity inside of it?
I’m infinite, I know, but I still have a measly wrinkle
collection compared to my end goal. I would love
to be a before picture, I think, as I look in the mirror
and mistake my head for the moon. My dark
thoughts are almost always 238,856 miles away
from me believing them. I love this life,
I whisper into my doctor’s stethoscope
so she can hear my heart. My heart, an heirloom
I didn’t inherit until I thought I could die.
Why did I go so long believing I owed the world
my disappointment? Why did I want to take
the world by storm when I could have taken it
by sunshine, by rosewater, by the cactus flowers
on the side of the road where I broke down?
I’m not about to waste more time
spinning stories about how much time
I’m owed, but there is a man
who is usually here, who isn’t today.
I don’t know if he’s still alive. I just know
his wife was made of so much hope
she looked like a firework above his chair.
Will the afterlife be harder if I remember
the people I love, or forget them?
Either way, please let me remember.
Copyright © 2023 by Andrea Gibson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.