Bio Note: I'm a stay-at-home dad, graduate of the Creative Writing program at UMKC, and a terminally diagnosed brain tumor patient. My wife Lili and I live in Independence, Missouri, where she teaches at a Montessori kindergarten and I serve as Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review, a poetry editor at Harbor Editions, take care of our two kids. My first of six collections of poetry, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. My latest is Far Other (Woodley Press, 2020).
Among her first words is the Chinese for dog: Gou, her catchall for the upside-down squirrels on the oak trunk, robins jouncing along yesterday’s stroller ride, as well as Donna’s cow-splotched border collie Labrador mix. Whatever stirs is gou pronounced nearly the same as the book Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman, pronounced nearly the same as the abstract strategy game I’ve never played but remember referenced in Gary Snyder’s poem, “Riprap,” about the victory of concreteness over abstraction, the human-placed rocks, brittle teeth gritted against the rising tide. At 15 months, Omi presses an animal figurine into the palm of my hand, crying, “Zebra.”
Donna asks me about her, the whereabouts of the calico the sellers abandoned when they moved to Warrensburg. According to Arlene, self- appointed neighborhood watch, the cat in question scratched their kids, so Haley and Bryce left it behind. According to Darrell, “Selena,” so named by his son Isaac, his wife Annette, wouldn’t have survived the last winter the sellers sheltered in my house had Annette not invited it in. Our first few months Selena haunted the lilac bush, napped under the front deck. She rubbed up against my leg nights I carried out the trash. Appeared on the back deck in early morning dark, looking for someone I half imagined was me. I would open the garage door for her but doubt she ever entered. Must have been pining for someone else.
It hurts where I hit myself on the head. Who would want to be a poet, snagged, as you said, except when, or where, it’s the only viable option, so as not to end up a suicide. Sometimes I imagine myself a preacher because I was good at debate in high school or because people always thought I was deep and wanted to have “deep” conversations with me, but you have to have a sermon to preach and I have a brain tumor where the sermon would grow. Sometimes I imagine myself a scientist because my sight is limited to my sight, a cascade of catkins and the interstate streaming below my balcony rail, but that’s not science. That’s just another poem.
©2021 Cameron Morse
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