John Dorsey: “Cancer Song #9”

Cancer Song #9

your first mri
you have to be pulled out 3 times
hardly able to breathe
now they place a towel over your face
& offer you a warm blanket
& some easy listening music
piped into your headphones
& it almost feels like you’re on vacation
& you dream about staying in there forever
safe from the outside world
somewhere cancer & time can’t follow you
& you think about squeezing a button
& ordering a cold drink
& asking about the inflight movie.

About the Author: John Dorsey is the former poet laureate of Belle, Missouri and the author of Pocatello Wildflower. He may be reached at

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Tunnel” (2021)

Leslie M. Rupracht: “Slow Denial”

Slow Denial

Years passed since I witnessed 
MS fracture Mom’s neurology, stealing 
her calligraphic hand, stilling her walk 
and independence, robbing all recollection. 

Unhurried decline gave rise to stroke that denied 
her swallow, silenced her song and motherly words, 
her last breath at age 74. Today, with each successive 
phone call from seven hundred miles away, 

I learn how my father’s eyes betray his art. Potter’s 
wheel not recently turned, blank canvases on the easel 
sit untouched, despite Dad’s nagging urge to paint, 
to create, before his waning vision decides 

it’s too late. Now 83, he also fights COPD. Worries 
over his final arrangements, forgets again and again 
to follow through. I gently remind. I politely nag— 
it’s a father-daughter round dance. Correspondence 

penned by an unsure hand and our déjà vu discussions 
underscore his blurred attention to details, numbers, 
and words—macular degeneration in cahoots with his 
mind’s random disposal of clear thought and memory.

Tonight, I call Dad. I wrote a poem about a ball game 
we went to when I was nine. This holds his attention. 
He says he looks forward to hearing it. Calls me a true 
artist for my writing craft. Mostly, I want to reminisce 

for fun and distraction from our legal to-do list. Tough 
topics simmer on the back burner as Dad cites the same 
Major League players I named in my poem—
Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Willie Randolph, 

among them—our famous sports heroes who 
stood at the fence between first base and bleachers, 
signed autographs as we lingered in joyful awe, 
drenched in the summer rain.

Check out the previous poem referenced in stanza 6 “The Night I Lost My Souvenir Bucket Hat”

About the Author: Leslie M. Rupracht has poems appearing or forthcoming in Aeolian Harp, Asheville Poetry Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Chiron Review, K’in, The Ekphrastic Review, Gargoyle, Anti-Heroin Chic, Kakalak, a chapbook, Splintered Memories (Main Street Rag), and elsewhere. Editor, poet, writer, visual artist, and rescued pit bull mama, Leslie cofounded and hosts the monthly reading series, Waterbean Poetry Night at the Mic, in Huntersville, NC (on Facebook/Instagram @WaterbeanPoetryNightattheMic).

Image Credit: “Baseball game at Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals are playing the Philadelphia Athletics” (1925) Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Joe Mills: “The Scientist After the Operation”

The Scientist After the Operation

A couple weeks after the operation, 
he finally can sit outside,
under the enormous black walnut tree
that hasn’t yet succumbed to a storm
although it loses limbs each time.
He holds in his lap a biography 
of Gregor Mendel, the monk 
who cross-bred plants 
and discovered genetic inheritance.

At one point, he had thought about
the church as a career. His mother had
suggested it would be a good place
for someone with his “proclivities,”
a comment so complicated he kept
returning to the statement for years
trying to determine if it was caring,
Machiavellian or something else.
He had studied science instead.

She doesn’t know he’s sick.
They haven’t talked since the wedding 
when the state finally allowed him 
and Greg to be a legal couple,
and yet, this was when 
his grandmother began talking 
openly to him about relationships 
in the months before her death. 
Some things skip a generation. 
Some things never get passed down. 

He sees Greg glancing out 
the kitchen window, checking
to make sure he’s okay,
awake, still alive,
and he waves the book
to reassure his partner,
like a preacher with a bible

About the Author: A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills holds the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. He has published seven volumes of poetry, most recently Bodies in Motion. His collection This Miraculous Turning was awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family.


Image Credit: Edvard Munch “Landowner in the Park” (1903)