Two Poems by Jennifer Lagier

Death Watch
for the latest cancer cluster victim

For months we have
charted shrinking intervals
between hospitalizations,
practiced grief in bearable increments.

Now we calendar a day or two at a time,
plan flexible weekends,
book only refundable rooms and
flights with no penalties
for quick cancellation.

Updates come morning and night
from the exhausted family members
who trade shifts and wait
in your hospital room.

Those at home have wept themselves dry,
rehearsed all year for the final
phone call they fear
but have grown to expect.

In our community,
we no longer bother
to guess which pesticide
triggered this murder.

One by one, loved ones
sicken and suffer,
pray for deliverance,
slip through our fingers.

At graveside,
we calculate our own
life expectancies, toxic exposures,
stand in diminishing circles.

Grief Ritual
for Krissy
June 10, 1969-September 1, 1988

I stitch shock beneath the appropriate mask.
Death pulls cold leather and primitive fur over cliché.
Rituals keep my feet moving,
provide distraction, decisions to make.
I chant grief's oversized syllables,
trade them for chrysanthemums and casseroles.
As tragedy's groupies arrive,
I recite the grim inventory,
again and again.

In imagination's every version,
the open wound
in your fractured skull seeps.
My brain dances denial's choreography
around pleated metal,
webbed windshield glass.

Months later, I keep discovering apparitions
clothed in your gestures and face.
Afraid to extract the bamboo sliver of sorrow
from beneath the gnawed nails of my mind,
I grow accustomed to anger,
need pain to eclipse
the endless horrific movie
that keeps rolling inside.

Jennifer Lagier