By: Linda Hillringhouse

Featured Art: Undiagnosed by Rachel Ann Hall

I arrive at the moment
when the oncologist tells my brother
that his bones look like Swiss cheese

& that yes this disease will kill him
& my brother shoots up from the table
in a rictus of terror, the undiagnosed Asperger’s
in overdrive, & I jump in & say Of course
the doctor means many years from now

& mercifully the doctor switches scripts
& a year later, after the first transplant fails,
asks if he could test my DNA for a second one

& one day I walk into the hospital
& my sister-in-law, queen of the underworld,
says Great news, you’re a match!
& I want to rip her face off, having just read
about the dangers of donating stem cells

& I pretend to be happy but I’m terrified
& have to tunnel down deep to grab
the cowering little yes by the scruff

but my mother hears about a doctor
who saved her friend’s son who also
had multiple myeloma & the new doctor tells me
a second transplant won’t work
and would be a living hell & I’m relieved

& I have worn this skirt of shame every day
for fifteen years, since I threw
that phony fistful of earth into his grave.

Linda Hillringhouse was a first-place winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and second-place winner of Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Lips, Paterson Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Oberon, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her book of poetry, The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish For (NYQ Press, 2020) was shortlisted for The Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize in 2021.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s