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On the Day of Her Diagnosis
for my mother
by Barbara Crooker

a cold wind was bearing
down, straight from Canada.

The small pearl I'd seen floating
in the warm water of her breast

was cancer, a word that hissed
in the ear like fat in a pan

or the breath of a snake.
With these two syllables, the dice

rolled, and the odds went up
for all the women in my family.

Early November, most of October's
gold has fallen, bruise-colored clouds

moving in. I remember being six,
sick in bed, how the winter trees

scratched the leaden sky, witches in a Grimm
tale, how she brought me cinnamon

toast and milky tea. Now I bring her lentil
soup, with circles of kielbasa, carrots, onions;

scones warm from the oven, spread with strawberry
jam, whatever bit of sweetness I can scrape

from the jar. Mother, daughter, all the old stories,
the frost moon, the loss moon, sinking below the horizon.


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