Copyright 2018


Sarah Cooper

Your clavicle v’s toward the throat’s concave insert,
breasts still taught, nipples brown, shoulders sturdy,

veins sprawling toward chin, your scar holding
your torso together, gray sprigs peeks from your hair towel,

ears turned down at the top, the towel’s pressing them out.
You rub lotion over your forehead, eyes, cheekbones

now glisten, Lubriderm smeared over elbows.
Fastening bra with one hand, you talk to me,

stand in front of the fireplace, chattering about Dad:
his doctor’s appointments, the referral to a specialist, diagnosis sciatica.

You want him to be well (and for a moment
we both forget you are not.)

Mom, you look good, I announce with a wink. I haven’t seen you naked
for over a year when we were living

in a hospital room together. I’d change your sheets,
your gown, we brushed our teeth at a sink,

you wanted to stand for that. It was out of dignity,
it was out of fear you could no longer stand,

it was out of need to tell that hospital bed
you didn’t need it. Today, you dress

in front of the same fireplace we huddled around
after snowy days, the warmth

luring cats for naps. The same fireplace
you sucked embers from, imploding

the Red Devil®. Today your legs bow,
thighs separate, muscles missing. Unashamed,

I stare at the body that birthed me, the one
that engulfs me, still.


You have cancer
the word reborn in my mouth
like poems can be prayers
hear it, say it.

The word reborn in my mouth
living in your intestines
hear it, say it:
I wish you didn’t have to write that poem

living in your intestines
we hear the gurgle
I wish you didn’t have to write that poem
about me, for me.

We hear the gurgle
like poems can be prayers
about me, for me.
You (still) have cancer.


It’s stuck in my tonsils, chokes on chicken and sweet potatoes, tries to strangle spinach. I resort to protein shakes and eventually pinot noir. You made a joke once that you noir my native name (if I were native of anywhere). You said it, gagging on a feeding tube. Your inability to eat replaced with a reflex not to swallow. Eventually, you pulled the tube out, wrapped it on the bed rail, slept four hours, the longest you’d slept in weeks. When the nurse tried to reinsert the line you reached for the food tray, choked down two slices of toast.

Sarah Cooper is a native of South Carolina. She earned her MA from Purdue University and MFA from Converse College where she was mentored by Denise Duhamel. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Sun Star Review, Sling Magazine and Cahaba Literary Review. Currently, she teaches at Clemson University, lives with an orange cat and writes poems on front porches.