Dreaming of Horses

by

 

by Vera Lisa Smetzer

 

When you learned you had cancer,
I learned to pray, lit votive candles
as I bargained for your life.

I salvaged the Hail Marys
drifting up from the rosaries
at Mass to save you but

no miracles. Thriving on chance,
you pushed the accelerator 85, 90
on the Fiat – burying the needle.

You wanted to parachute out
of a plane but you couldn’t
give yourself to the sky, so you

bailed out. Beating the odds
became a way of life. You shuffled
the Tarot until one card fell

on the table. Shuffled again if
the Tower appeared, predicting
cataclysmic change. If you

turned up the four of clubs
in a regular deck, you sighed
if the ten of clubs laid down

beside it, warning of illness.
You bet the lottery every week
from Ireland to Australia to Canada.

Still you had no luck. Cancer taught you
to curse but you dismissed it
with a wave of your hand if someone

from Leo’s Mobil asked “How are
feeling?” as they pumped gas. No one
in Caribou rated a second glance

if they asked “Anything
I can do to help? You didn’t
linger anywhere. We discussed books

on healing, talk show cures, crystals,
then macrobiotics. You made plans to fly
to Japan for the promise of a body

no disease could reside in if you ate
brown rice and sea vegetables,
balanced sweet and salty foods.

You embraced the philosophy of yin
and yang. Dressed only in black
or white, believing a person fades

away in colors, unnoticed. People said,
“You look well.” I saw you like
a bird, never landing or seeking rest.

After a remission, cancer again. Watching
TV became your life, then just sitting.
My hands smelled like Vaseline from rubbing

your skin that held no moisture.
You began to dream of piebald horses
as your mother and her mother did

before they died. We spent time
in hospital rooms full of flowers, candy
boxes the nurses nibbled from as they

sent visitors out like bits of dust
swept from the corners of the room.
The walls supported us until we

could be let back in. From your hospital
window you’d point to a tree. “See!
There’s my horse.” I half-expected

to see it tethered. I didn’t want to chase
it away. When the pain was untouched
by morphine and food did not nourish,

I began to save the soft wisps of hair
tangled in your brush. I kept an apple
in my pocket for the horse.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Alvera Lisa Smetzer

 

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