Bio Note: I am a poet in the Chicago area, currently serving as president of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. These poems are from my poetry manuscript about cancer, which I hope to publish one day. The poems are my silver lining in a dark cloud of uncertainty and trauma.
I walked to the lake tonight, dark boughs fanned the light of the moon as I hiked the scree to see the water. Could only imagine what was inside—fresh-faced bluegill who in day shimmer with soft-scale xylophone iridescence. I closed my eyes, woke to loose threads spinning wildly from my mind like Medusa’s snakes, they raveled and unraveled as I sat moored on the bank, broken metamorphic rocks combined with worn-soft sedimentary stones. I waited for courage to claim this dark place. I had travelled there, descended not to Hades, but to the possibility of cancer’s recurrence. Maybe if I waited long enough I would find agates, geodes, escape this nightmare by panning for gold. The moon grinned at me deliriously. I stood up to leave, felt the comfort when I finally came home, the front light shining on your outrageous wildflower garden. I embraced the sunflowers, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, milkweed; I smelled the rose petals. Tomorrow the sun will chase away the moon, and there will be monarchs and hummingbirds, rubies and diamonds
High in the Rockies, I used to walk the Continental Divide, my companions Dall sheep and aspen. I brushed by lichen, forget-me-nots, lime green moss growing on large boulders. So long ago I embraced the sky as I hiked tundra and valleys. To look at the mountains set me free. I trekked, ambled, climbed, camped. I aimed to go far away from civilization, found others along the way. Now, post-surgery, my scars permanently tattooed on my chest, I don’t hike the Continental Divide anymore. I don’t stop to smell lavender, thistle, aster or Indian Paintbrush. Instead, I dream of fourth-century BC Scythian women who rode horses into battle. What spears! What iron daggers! What perfect quivers and bronze-tipped arrows! Oh! The perfection of a Scythian bow--small, powerful. Amazon Sisters, what gifts did you give Penthesilea, your queen? What wounds did you procure? You smoked pot, got tattooed. You were buried maimed, scarred, some with legs askance like an isoceles triangle, as if you were still riding. Next to you lay horse bones and tackle. I wonder if I could make a spear out of lodgepole pine, deciduous leaves, Rocky Mountain maple, fireweed and harebell. Maybe I should pray to Cybele, goddess of the moon, like the Amazons did, ask her to carve a path of light to protect Pink Sisters before they go to battle, before they become warriors and go into the dark night
©2021 Caroline Johnson
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