Eating Grapes in Church
In the morning I watch my nana arrange
two sets of vitamins on folded napkins before breakfast.
Soft fish oil capsules gleam like a spray of jewels.
Pop swallows each amber ellipse with orange juice.
Before church, Nana puts on loud pink lipstick and packs
a tiny plastic bag full of green seedless grapes.
We leave through a doorframe etched with heights.
I cannot read
the Stations of the Cross. The hymnal is no different
than a phonebook.
Taut bright skin splits around my teeth.
I wait for the part I like:
peace be with you peace be with you
Everyone smiles. Grapes can be made to last if bitten in halves.
Their wet bellies are cool on my tongue. The priest asks something
that is not the right question. The priest does not ask:
if the last supper went on forever
would no one have died? In the seventh station
Jesus falls a second time.
Everything after that is an ending.
The progressive care unit
Sounds like a casino. The
crescendo of call button bells
from fifty rooms of people trying
not to die can’t even be quieted
with a jackpot Xanax.
Curled up in the chair beside
my father’s hospital bed, I place
my open palm on the sheet and
feel him grasp it. I am not sure I
have ever held his hand before.
Maybe as a little girl? We are
quiet as the nurses move around
us and oxygen hisses,
a Yankees preseason game humming
lowly in the high corner of the room.
I am paralyzed by the things I want to ask
but the asking would mean we both accept
now is the only time to ask.
he’s eager to start chemo, get well enough,
he scrawls on a notebook page and pushes it
against my arm,
to see a final baseball game together.
Four days ago I dreamt I was stung by
sixteen wasps as big as globe grapes
and felt my throat close. Today I held
my dad’s hand when an oncologist told him
he has stage four lung cancer. I couldn’t find
the words, so I sat in my car and screamed.
Now, on the long drive home, I’m begging
a God I don’t believe in for the Yankees
to win, too terrified
to check the score.
Instead of Choking
At sixteen, I ripped
off my braces with a pair of pliers. I remember
the satisfying click
of each bracket popping off and hitting
the mirror, the bands snapping,
the wire sliding free.
A few months later, I sat in my friend’s kitchen while
her older brother pushed two safety pins and, finally,
a small metal bar through my tongue as I drooled through laughter
and scribbled messages on the yellowed pulp of
her scratched table, Wow, tongues are so much softer than you’d expect.
been good at hurting
my mouth, the warmth and wetness and shrill taste
of red. Even now, I nibble
at the pink flesh of my cheeks. I cannot imagine
life without waking myself gnashing,
rolling my fingertips over the balled hardness of clenching mandible.
I have hurt myself on you too, on warm lips
and small mouth, and it wrote my release.
I release you now, too
I swallow forgiveness
like a dulled string of pearls.
Have you ever noticed how “Therapist” is spelled
“The Rapist,” Theresa asks, grinning, while she moves
a red crayon idly over the edges of a paper flower.
Elizabeth is on so much lithium
she nods off over the common room table.
We all make jokes about the ping-pong ball being
A privilege, we must be trusted not to try to swallow it.
At fifteen, I was in the hospital twice
before I learned to stop trying to escape my body.
I met Samantha, the first girl I had to force myself
to stop staring at, not completely understanding why
her fuchsia hair, the way she walked
made my palms sweat.
Another patient told me Kiki, thirteen,
6’1 and two hundred fifteen pounds,
has been here for six months
after pushing her pregnant mother down the stairs.
We spend all day journaling with markers and shuffling to group therapy
in sweatpants without drawstrings
and we laugh often, make each other cards, fight for an extra two minutes
at the single phone outside the nurse’s station.
Sandy laid prostrate in the road
after her mother found her in bed with her stepbrother
I try to imagine how the asphalt must have felt on her back,
as the night shift nurse, the nice one, makes her rounds
a car’s headlights are approaching,
no, just the hourly flashlight,
keeping us safe.
About the poet:
Macaulay Glynn is a graduate student in English literature and creative writing at Binghamton University. She was editor-in-chief of the Keystone College literary magazine The Plume for two years and a three-time recipient of the Edward Cameron IV American Academy of Poets prize.