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Young Wife Waiting for the Results of Her Husband’s Biopsy

ISSUE:  Winter 1988
She crushes a paper coffee cup
in her lap. (This can’t be happening.)
Nurses murmur. (She remembers her grandmother’s
shadow murmuring, shades drawn, a rosary
rolling over her hands.) A thousand miles away
from this bright place, her parents, his parents
wait for her call. She tugged the cord
as she told them. Just last week
she ground up fresh French roast at home
with him, stirring
a cinnamon stick in. Its tight scroll
unraveled on their tongues, its taste unrolled.

This morning she smelled the cut
grass blowing past
the man next door as he mowed his lawn.
He has lived there so long.
At noon his wife will shake moist lettuce
in the shade and call him
into that cool place.

The hospital towers. A summer holly
flowers, a veil of bees hovering
above it. (She remembers summer Sundays,
her mother making her pin her veil
down, pin down the heat that rose
and fell on her head as she walked to church.
The thick-tongued bells she used to believe
told her she would always come, come.)

Someone calls her name.
The doctor says her husband
does not have, her husband will live. . .
is the answer.

Her husband sleeps. Hunger
eats her so suddenly she must go
home to tear up bread, eat olives, peppers,
palm-hearts, cheese, drink dark beer.
The humid windows in her house are stuck
shut. She shoves them open.
Out there
a rosebush flaps. The couple next door
pack up their lunch and go inside
because the sky is getting dark.
She opens her door. Wind
wraps, unwraps her clothes.
The sky is dark. The wind picks up and blows
around her porch some scraps of rose.


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