I sometimes wish that illness was more visible.
The old people at radiation assure each other that they feel fine
that they aren’t sick
as if saying it were making it true
but I wish there was something more tangible
so that when I sit on the subway
and I watch the man with his newspaper
the exhausted mother and her toddler
the young woman and her novel
I would be able to see
the same marks on their skin
as there are on mine
so I would know that I wasn’t alone
so they would know they weren’t alone
so that I could throw my arms around them
and hold them
and tell them
I love them
and I will never let go.
At night before bed,
I go into the bathroom
and pull my hair back in
and then cup two hands over my scalp
hiding as much hair as I can
trying to create
how it will look when there is nothing but skin.
My husband knocks on the door,
you okay? he asks.
Somehow I answer.
Impatient in both life and death
I dog ear the books.
As a collector of bookmarks
this drives my husband nuts.
The library books are one thing, he says
but not ours.
Yet I find I’m always grabbing
the poetry books off the shelf and forgetting
a bookmark and beside
these sleek slender volumes
can barely hold their own words
let alone a whole bookmark.
So I dog ear,
the little bent corners
of the pages.
Sometimes nothing for whole chunks.
Sometimes one every other poem
after a quick read between subway transfers,
the corners flapping
like flags marking depots
across the dry cold waste of undiscovered land.
I wonder if later
when I’m gone
he’ll find these creases
in the books we shared
the corners still creased
my long distance death defying reminder
like a star winking at him
all the way from the past,
a message over time
a little salute and a hello
from the darkest corner of space.
Ally Malinenko’s lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to but was voted to have the best halal truck. Her website is http://allymalinenko.com/