by Cameron Morse
Theo says Mama and hands me
a hair from your head so long its ends
have twirled together. Today is
the bottle of my shave gel
he won’t let go of as if it contained
some wish-granter and his wish
were to replace me forever
in the equation of mommy and me.
Theo crawls into the family
room crate, corning Sherlock,
and pulls shut the door behind him.
Pull the plume he discovers
shed hair sticks between fingers,
dog hair and cobwebs,
all the ephemera of having a baby
cricket in your afternoon’s
last mouthful of ice coffee. I could see Theo
stabbing the tolerant, sad-eyed
cockapoo out of sheer curiosity
but for the distraction of a garbage truck,
salvation from the tedium of homestay
parenting, parenting home, I stay
at home. My life is an unanswered question
and every day I ask again.
I know my mouth is open.
I would like to close my burning
eyes in the heatstroke sun
of the first of July. But the yellow
snail kiddie pool describes
how children drown, one by one,
in language after language.
Three dusty lawn chairs surround me.
Theo carries an orange cup.
When the idea of a refill strikes him,
he grunts at the spigot, begins
to cry then comes to fetch water
from inflatable rubber lining
of the snail. I try to think
of all the things I’ve heard said,
or read, and what might not
yet have been written. In tree shade,
the pendulum of his child swing
veers right as if S-hooked
a link shorter on that side, his neck
flopped right. His ballcap drops.
Uh-oh, he says. One of the first words
he learned, he learned
Looking for Things to Do
We look for things to do is how it works
with evenings like water the wilting donkey
ears of the hyacinths. Then forget it,
they’ll come back next year. Things to do
like scent of spearmint. Do that,
then pull the pin oaks out of the flowerbed.
Do battle with the centipede, little man.
Snip its body segments, its fused legs,
with garden shears, releasing war cries
not baby cries, yuck! Dirty, dirty, yuck,
yuck, soldier. You look for things to do,
then watch, after the boy trooper goes to bed,
but nothing can distract from the guilty hungers
of pregnancy and I might as well be rinsing
mushrooms in the kitchen sink
as finishing the latest sequel to Halloween.
I’m afraid of protein. I’m
afraid of what aid
too many sausage links may
supply my brain
tumor. However rich my life,
I will always want more
where that came from.
The more I drink, the thirstier
I am. Last night I found
three glasses waiting
in the study. I’m always looking
for my water
because I leave it everywhere:
on the coffee counter,
the piano, in the guest bedroom,
in the mailbox, yes,
the mailbox, like when Theo
takes off and I give
chase, not wanting to carry
anything on our walk
down the lane. I can go a while
without fear, walking along
Golfview Drive as if we didn’t
have to get back in time
for breakfast, but then I pick up
my boy and carry him home.
I open up the blood between my toes
scratching the ancient fungus.
Hold my hands behind my back and Theo
copies me. His big head perched
on slender shoulders. My little brother
strums praise & worship storms
on his acoustic, almost
as bad as I was. Barb talks about her
women’s group cancer
patients, the one in remission,
the one in hospice, her autistic grandson.
I hate the distance between Kansas
City and Spokane, man. Lili drove me
to Grand Rapids in my rented tux
to deliver a speech before the children
smashed your pinata in the church
basketball court. Our emergency lights
jammed on early the frosty morning
of our departure. I tried to buy a knife
in a gas station, couple of Armenian
guys looking back at me blankly
through bulletproof glass. In the end,
I yanked loose the entire console
just to stop the clicking.
About the Author:
Cameron Morse was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, Portland Review and South Dakota Review. His first poetry collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His three subsequent collections are Father Me Again (Spartan Press, 2018), Coming Home with Cancer (Blue Lyra Press, 2019), and Terminal Destination (Spartan Press, 2019). He lives with his pregnant wife Lili and son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri, where he manages Inklings’ FOURTH FRIDAYS READING SERIES with Eve Brackenbury and serves as poetry editor for Harbor Review. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.