“The New York Times” Says Aloe Is a Hoax

& I with stinging hot skin 
read the article hoping I would believe it
because I don’t want to leave the house after sundown—
or not quite sundown, the cone of light is wide-open
& magnolia trees large & proud but not
blotting the silver-shell sky, whorl & spire
& aperture, all aperture. I read Call It in the Air, 
Ed’s book about his painter sister & her death
at 44, like Billie Holiday, & I start to consider
44. No. Not the death, just the conch of it, 
how it whorls & opens, limelights
—44 limelights a woman. I thought I’d passed
all the ages like that, okay I guess the death
that’s accidentally glorious. Aloe may not
contain aloe. It may contain benzene,
which kills you. Even if it is real aloe
it might not work—but as a kid I aloed
my mixed-race skin when its tan 
tipped to coral & my aloe is an archetype
of soothing, the soothing of sunlight,
ramen noodles & days. Real solace, not drink or mania
or the hot pink chemical twang
of Now & Laters, then more. I promised myself
no drinking tonight & when I texted Ed
about it, how his book helped me turn
away from wine, I of course hadn’t told him 
I’d started again, having once said sober. Embarrassed
I went upstairs to start counting days
from one. Now I think I’ll go out alone in the dusk
to drugstores, where I walked 
all childhood, wanting candy, & the summer
before college when I spent all day in bed eating
Flaming Hot Asteroids & Spree. I guess now I’m
committed to this earth & my feet on it, 
& I’ll rub my skin with what might be a plant. 

Copyright © 2024 by Shamala Gallagher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.