Poem for Advent Three

Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 15, 2013
Lessons: Isaiah 35: 1-10, Luke 1:46-55, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11

The Lineage of Ailment
by Kathryn Smith

He said he couldn’t remember the name
for the cancer. But when they cut her open, it was like
a spider’s web, so thick they couldn’t see
her organs.
So when his own doctor told him
Probably, hedged with Maybe, said, We’d need tests,
but if that’s what your mother had, it’s most likely…
my grandfather said I don’t want to know.

*

To name the thing that ails you does not cure it.
It only gives it sound, a translation in the wrong
language, something to stick in the throat.

*

Scoliosis. Stubbornness. Skin too
easily burned. Lupus. Dementia.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Fear of water.
Anorexia. Generations of undiagnosed
depression. Fear of speaking out.

*

And on that day, titanium will turn
to bone in my mother’s joints—no use for the specialists
in another city, gone
the medicine cabinet’s excess.
On that day, my father’s back will uncoil
from its perpetual question.
That day, I will rise
unencumbered by the stone I’ve carried as far and long
as I remember, the empty
weight I’ve scarcely been without.
We’ll hardly know what to do
without our impediments, with a steady
upright step, with the lightness.

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