Written after the sculpture ‘Abomination’ by Eva Hendrickson
I am a tunnel of aching teeth,
Of the desert
I am brittle
and I did not give my consent.
The only thing left at the back of this cave,
daylight washes in just short of me.
I am a sliver I can’t extract and no one here to help me.
I fester my own wound.
The last best part of me has dried, spiraled up, and found its way out of here.
Written after the photograph ‘Choke’ by Keith Bridges
I have never seen my heart.
But I’ve felt it roll and scratch inside my chest;
prickly tips strain against a threat to split open.
My heart up against a hot fresh loss, or one dug up cold from the grave,
it’s worse than being born. Minutes dig into hours and days and can’t see a way past
each new surge trying to break me.
But they don’t because
the heart is an endless machine.
The first moments past pain are like a blanket settled down on an empty bed.
Still buzz, the absence of feeling. Exhausted.
My own green heart flexed its best
and can lay down to rest.
The Night Cancer Came Home
It didn’t walk in the door. It came
by heart, via the cord that runs
from father, to mother, to son.
Because our children
are two and four, they don’t wonder
why their father goes to the basement
when the phone rings and why
he lingers there. They simply take
their baths and dance
through the fits that come at the end
of any good day with no naps.
When he opens the bathroom door,
his eyes are pink and glassy. He balls
his hand in front of his mouth
and hunches toward me to bury
his face in my neck. Our children
I look up and into the mirror we stand
in front of. He pulls away
and does the same. Even in these moments
people look into mirrors.
I dress the children in jammies and socks
and take them to the car, warmed
and waiting to rock them to sleep.
Blocks away, they are gone
and we are alone.
I want to ask about surgery and options,
about surrounding organs and odds
for survival. I haven’t heard him speak
cancer. I only knew it was possible
and saw him cry.
When driving, my husband prefers
his words on the inside. So I hold
his silence as well as the hand
he rests on my thigh. I sandwich
it with my own, like a piece of bread
for your child’s lunch,
or turkey and cheese late for work. Only
for the familiar.
How to Eat a Bowl of Plums
Take them from the ice box, yes
but let the eating wait. Press them
for sincerity—their willingness
to be eaten—then roll them
across the linoleum, love the miniature
jump and thunder they make never mind
the stop into mob board, the risk
of open stairway.
Rinse under the thickest
cold water. Spread them across the counter.
Rock your widest knife
across skin to stone, never stopping
the storm of slivers and meat pulp.
draw it into a mound—fruit
bleeding out a puddle, a snowball
letting go. Now eat it, in handfuls
the way we would drink from rivers
if we could.
Soft dragon. Princess of rocks and sticks.
Your coat is a cape forged in lake water and set in deck sun.
You are raw earth and the under side of plants that grow in the shadows of trees.
Your dog heart finds mine empty at 4 am and piles you into my bed.
You are a deep sigh stretched out warm and set in against my full length.
I will follow you back to sleep and dream wild things with the smell of your head as my canvas.
Ronda Redmond received her MFA from Minnesota State University Mankato in 1998. She has published work in The New Delta Review, Loonfeather, The Evansville Review, and Permafrost. She works as a Business Analyst and is active in her local arts community.