Last Days in the Desert (2015)
In the season of houseflies,
I am learning how to wash
a hand that is clenched shut
around the rubber handle
of a spatula or a matchbox
car by prying open half
the fingers at a time while
the others retain their hold.
Nevertheless, it seems I’m
always looking for the remote
control, one of his favorite
items to have and to hold.
Despite his blue eyes, Ewan
McGregor seems to me
the most relatable silver screen
Jesus. Sawdust between
the toes of oak trunk I drilled
for Medicaps remembers
me a carpenter for 15 minutes
below the jaundiced leaves.
I take a sip of ice coffee and spit up
a dead baby cricket, go to take
a pee and hit the centipede
so hard with the Croc I slip my
foot out of its legs pop off,
twitching in toilet water.
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 brand-new 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. 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 early the frosty morning
of our departure. I tried to buy a knife
at a Conoco a 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.
I forget to premedicate
and miss my biannual MRI.
Realize marriage as the time
it takes for me to remember
which spoon won’t fit the shape
of your mouth, which pair
of scissors you would not use
to cut the loose hairs that spindle
the brush-roll of the vacuum cleaner.
When Theo’s diaper drops
like a curtain and he begins to pee,
I pull him into a warming
embrace. Wanting to contain
his urine, I close the space
between our bodies. I don’t listen
to what you say anymore.
I listen to what you want. Say
it’s too late for beef Bulgogi
Mandu, and I beat you to the wok.
Whatever fight I once had in me
is gone. The sex lives
of the neighbors I’m spying on
are more interesting to me
than my own.
Theo says Mama and hands me
a hair from your head so long its ends
twirl 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 an equation of mommy and me.
He crawls into the family
room crate, corning Sherlock,
and pulls shut the door behind him.
Pull the plume and 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 my boy
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.
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.