the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Philip Miller

My Nurse

—for Tasha Snyder

My nurse calls me
by the first name
as if she knows me
already, only too well—
or rather, too unwell—knows
something I don't.
Though when I ask her
if my fever is a danger sign,
my splitting headache,
my loss of appetite
she smiles, says, "Oh, no,
it's just the chemo."
"Philip," my nurse calls me
using the long version
of my name as my mother did,
especially when I was in trouble,
which, of course, I am now,
and my nurse knows this,
though when I ask her
how she really thinks I'm doing
she answers quickly, "Oh fine,
you're doing fine," not adding
what I add, "Right now, doing fine
right now." My nurse tightens
the blood pressure cuff
on my arm, sticks a thermometer
in my mouth, just as I was about to ask,
how it would/will feel to die
of cancer of the blood.
Leukemia—the word that stops you dead—
what would be the tell tale signs of its demise,
how will it bring a body down,
but she's silenced me with efficient
diplomacy, and after taking
my pulse, checking my heart,
she's out of here, saying over
her shoulder "I'll be back
to check on you, Philip,"
as if, for awhile, anyway,
she will keep me safe.


Spring's Fall

Hedges of bridal wreath encircled
the house of my childhood
so that it was always snow in May.
The small white blossoms
smelled like snuff and ashes.
Their petals fell like confetti.

This morning, my shadow
waits with me by the bus stop
where cherry blooms have lost
their scent, faded to off-white.
Fallen blossoms fill my shadow
before a bus wheezes to a stop

and picks me up to ride past
trees streaming their green,
leafing out the sight of the river's
silver meandering, and beyond,
the clay cliffs I once climbed
before my spring began its fall.



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