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The Life Of Rally, 1951-1953

in Health by

Flat on my back. White sheets up to my chin. I can’t
move. My eyes look left, right.  My bed rolling, rolling.
One by one lights in the ceiling fly by. Voices mumble,
mumble. All around strange. Mother squeezing
through. Something white over my face. Mother?
Breathe in. Mother? Don’t be scared. Gone.
Black… black… black… black… gray. Gray. I want
my mother. Sh-sh-sh- Gray… gray… Where’s my mother?
Lights on. White. Sh-sh-sh. Sleep now. White. Where is she?
She’ll be back. Why did she go? Your mother can’t
stay here all night. Why? Sh-sh-sh. You’ll wake the other
children. In the morning. She’ll be back.

Get my tonsils out! Mother told me doctors told her
To halt another bout of pneumonia. A procedure
With mysterious rituals and a sleepover.
Then to soothe my tender throat, the best-of-all cure—
Ice cream! Twice a day! Back to school not more
Than weeks, off to chicken pox adventure!

Don’t scratch, Mother warned. But they itch!
I groaned. They’ll leave you blotched
For life! Then red hot measles overtook
Days back to first grade. Will I be stuck
In left-back glue? Nonsense, catch my pitch.
So, I passed with Mother’s loving pluck.

Grade two brought a tiny heart ache.
Perfect attendance but for one wake-
Up call ignored. But third grade mumps take
The cake: Worst pain in my early streak
Of life. Polio threats before the vac
Made my summers—no city pools… bleak.

 


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First poetry editor of two pioneer feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms., Yvonne (aka Yvonne Chism-Peace) has received several awards including NEAs for poetry (1974, 1984) and a Leeway for fiction (2003). Anthologies and annuals featuring her poems include: Bosque Press #8, Quiet Diamonds 2018 (Orchard Street), 161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus), This Sporting Life (Milkweed), Bless Me, Father: Stories of Catholic Childhood (Plume), Catholic Girls (Plume/Penguin), Tangled Vines (HBJ), Celebrations: A New Anthology of Black American Poetry (Follett), Pushcart Prize Anthology, and We Become New (Bantam).