November 13, 2023

Carcinoma – Winner of the 2023 Writing Award/Poetry Division

Nate Gentry, MD

I could’ve encased myself in iron,
or maybe just skipped a couple of gin kisses.
You would’ve slithered up my ladder anyway
until you found a crack in the rungs.
Immediately, you seize the controls, and my ribs
start pushing their pale shell.
No one is going to scratch your progress
into the doorframe with a pocketknife,
so can I be the one to eat tonight?
I curse white blood for its pitiful resistance.
Immunity’s incompetence urges me to try
slugging back every new-age poison that I can stand.
I gouge my veins, hoping that you’ll show yourself.
Show me your phlegmy envelope,
so I can tear you out with my teeth.
But you wrenched a visceral boulevard
to your filthy mass months back.
Weren’t you in my liver yesterday?
Today, I feel your warm scum scarf on my windpipe,
and your cuddle tugs a gag that I can’t choke up.
You’re a cockroach that lives under my wall
and squirms out when I’m close to forgetting.
I want to feel your chitin crack under my palm.
I fall asleep knowing
that you’ll crawl under my pillow and lick my neck.
And when I’m eating dirt dinners,
you’ll soak up what’s left.
I could have been the sweet pink of a sugarbush,
but now not even kudzu will curl over my putrid gravestone.

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