By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Paula Modersohn-Becker. Old Woman. Courtesy Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Looking at my X-ray, the doctor
says my hips resemble
those of an eighty-year-old woman.
Weeks later, when I huff into a tube
to blow out virtual birthday candles,
my allergist mentions
with what seems smug satisfaction
that my lungs whistle
like an eighty-year-old woman’s.
O hypothetical eighty-year-old woman—
you skeletal model
walking the hospital runway
in this year’s open-assed robe,
blue dots on cotton—
how do you like being the It Girl of Mortality,
archetype of: You are nearly nothing?
No, I want a physician who lists my body’s features
like a used-car salesman’s pitch—
here’s a real beaut, light-pink ’62
Plymouth Valiant with a push-button
transmission, perky butt fins, cat-print leather interior,
a spur hanging from the mirror,
and tires with some tread.
And its driver, an aging prima ballerina,
rose-red hair and rhinestone glasses
out for a spin on a racetrack,
falling behind while the fans applaud
for old-times’ sake,
looping and looping
before she veers off through a cow field.
Dion O’Reilly’s debut book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her poems appear in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Narrative, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Journal of American Poetry, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She is a member of The Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts and radio shows, and she leads online workshops with poets from all over the United States and Canada.