Poem: Hypochondriac

By: Holly Day


She had perfect teeth, possibly because
she never ate anything complicated, eschewed anything too spicy
or heavy, or foreign, as she would never say aloud
but we both knew what she meant when she watched me cook
from the corner of her tiny kitchen, a room
that had seemed so much bigger when I was young.

She left Kansas only twice: once, when she and my grandfather
went to the Dakotas for their honeymoon, a weekend spent
mostly watching her foreign surroundings
through the windows of their rattling Ford and then from behind
the safety of a glass picture window of the tiny lodge
she had spotted and picked out as perfect from the pages of a travel brochure
only to find it completely surrounded by trees and too much wilderness,

the second time, when she went to Colorado to get her lungs x-rayed
looking for the cancer she insisted was there but no doctor could find
despite repeated scans and ultimately devastating biopsies. I’ve always wondered
if she had known that it was the doctor’s tiny, sterile punch holes
that would bring her closer and closer to death, if she
would have gone in again and again, complaining of
shortness of breath, restless nights, repeated and obviously prophetic

dreams of black thunder clouds growling in her chest, cancerous
fingers branching like tree limbs in both lobes
things she spoke of often as if preparing us
for her death.


Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.


Categories: Poetry

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