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Photo by Jyotirmoy Gupta

Cancer ate my mother

First her breast, then her lung.

I still hear her knee joints clicking in the hall
as she paced in her long nightgown—
skin and skeleton—searching for sleep,
unaware of me huddled against my closed
bedroom door, hugging my pillow.

Then her bones and liver.

My father swaddled her with seven blankets
and rubbed Vaseline on her lips. Her wax-paper skin
darkened and her mouth bled. When she wet the bed
and my aunt changed the sheets, I left
to lie down on the sofa in the den.

Finally, her brain.

Though my father pretended her hallucinations were real,
restricted visitors, dabbed her tongue with a moist cloth,
he smacked my head as I napped. When I sat up
on the cushion, he knocked me to the carpet,
and walked to the kitchen. I followed.

Every feast must be prepared.

He darted from the fridge to the cabinet to the stove,
ignoring me. I cleared my throat and he rolled
his eyes. Handing over my mother’s recipe card,
he told me to make dinner. My aunt was hungry.
Her kids would arrive soon. I pored over
the ingredients and instructions, and set the table.
The meal greeted my uncle and cousins.

Every feast must end.

Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and The Book of Levinson and Our End Has Brought the Spring (Finishing Line Press, 2017, 2015). She is the Managing Editor of The Backwaters Press and she teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska.


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