We Regret to Report an Anomaly
Kandahar Airfield, January, 2013
You know, it had not been the best day of my life, that day back in the early spring of the year before when my mother had posted on my public Facebook wall that “your doctor’s office called and said your cholesterol is too high and they’ve written you a prescription for Lipitor.”
“Mom, you can write those kind of private things in a private message,” I reminded her in a text.
Gawd, cholesterol, I grumbled to myself, ripping open the box of mail my mother had forwarded to me there at my new Ed Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan. What could be worse?
This could. This letter from my doctor, the one I’d self-addressed to my Georgia address without giving it a second thought. It went a little something like this:
“We regret to inform patient ****** ***** (my name handwritten in the form letter blank) that her recent mammogram has come back abnormal. We regret to report an anomaly and we recommend that she follow up as soon as possible with her primary care provider and/or any recommended specialists.” I read it again, and again, and then again. Anomaly. Specialist.
And then I refolded the form letter, put it back in its envelope, and laid it flat on my desk, my own breezy handwriting looking back at me. Continue reading
Trigger warning: child abuse, sexual assault and violence
“Cuz Christy, if you ever show up around here, I’m gonna kick your ass. And you know I can”; her heavy emphasis upon “know” reflected her conviction that she had done so previously.
Struggling to appease her fury, I conceded “Baby Sandy. You can kick my ass. But I’m still a pretty good runner and I’m not sure you’d catch me. We’re both old women now.”
“Oh, I’d catch you alright and knock that fuckin’ useless head off your shoulders,” Sandy snarled.
“But why? I’ve just been trying to help. What did I do? I love you. Always have. Always will. I worry about you every day and night. I wonder where you’re sleeping and eating. Are you safe, happy? The questions keep coming. But I get no answers. Ever.”
Without hesitating, Sandy barked “Because you left. You fucking left us here.”
The worst part about this allegation?
It was true.
And I’d do it again. Continue reading
Another Failed LDR
I taste him in your mouth, his name stretched
past three syllables on your frosted tongue.
Combination of lime & taffy dreams. Lipstick
on your teeth like perfumed blood. Kiss goodbye
blotted on the bathroom mirror. You hold
phones in place of babies & beaus. Condensed
love pressed to your ear like a conch shell.
It isn’t waves you long to hear, anymore
but merry message-chimes. Acronyms
absorbed into your workday. I’m shocked I hear
him in your voice, your disconnected overage,
the lack of hang-ups as you brush my gums
in your need to feel something IRL.
We all sound the same in text form. You won’t
even have to close your eyes & pretend.
There was nothing more distressing for Lucas than walking the halls of the hospital. He shuffled his slippers in agonizing slowness while pulling an IV cart by his side as if it were an annoying friend that couldn’t take no for an answer.
He dreamt of being with Diane, walking along the Mesa of Santa Barbara that overlooked the beautiful ocean vista. They loved to lean against the wooden fence at the edge of the cliff and watch the speed boats cut across the Pacific, the hang gliders soaring so effortlessly in the sky, and the surfers balancing on their boards while riding the cresting waves.
Lucas labored alone down the hallway of the Pulmonary Care Unit with two defective lungs, a heart that was barely beating, and an IV cart joined at the hip. Continue reading
I’m learning how to be mentally present
such that I’m more likely to hear random things
I don’t know I want to know yet
Matt pushes open the rear door to the office and creeps across the floor in torn jeans and a flannel shirt. He wipes his nose on his sleeve and peers through the square hole separating the front office from editorial. He clenches his teeth against the bitter air, but can’t discern any sounds except the light tapping of a keyboard and the radiator clicking. Then a woman’s voice and then another buzzes like a radio going in and out of tune. Leaning closer, he attempts to translate the sounds into language, but can only make out hard k’s and soft s’s. One of them is Jean, his editor, and the other is Mary Ellen, the 25-year old receptionist. His girlfriend. Maybe they’re talking about the weather or the details for an important delivery, but Mary Ellen’s face, when he saw her a moment earlier through the front glass window, had the look of someone sharing important secrets. A chair scrapes against wood and Matt abruptly steps backwards, careens over Jean’s desk, and crashes into her chair, spilling it on its side. He rushes to his own desk and turns on his computer. It’s just coming to life when he feels a tap on his shoulder.
“When’d you get in?” Jean comes around to the front of his desk.
“A few minutes ago.” Continue reading
Sitting across the rotting planks of a water-worn picnic table at a lake dive in Rome City, Indiana, Chris glowered at Bob and strained not to hear him. She studied his ruddy face with his pale, hooded, sky-blue eyes. His face was unmistakably and disappointingly redolent of her own. In anger, her mom would shake her head slowly and deliberately while growling in revulsion, “You look just like him.” She usually managed to render “just” a two-syllable word to make her point. Chris hated this actuality and longed to resemble her mother who always lingered just beyond her reach. But his widow’s peak, unruly hair and godawful teeth were all lamentably hers too. Maintaining her own teeth was a Sisyphean task. They’d crack or break. Dr. Hill would patch them up. They’d break again and Dr. Hill, again, would do the needful. Bob simply let his rot. In fact he seemed proud of these gaping holes as they were yet another signifier of his indifference to the consequences of his decisions.
She wished she could be tender or something like that. But, “This putrid son of a bitch” rolled around in her head like her moist sneakers in the dryer after an early run in the dew-kissed grass of spring. She tried to appear indifferent as he plowed along in his flat, nasal Midwestern voice which also—irritatingly—sounded like a more masculine version of her own hilljack voice. Episodically her ears grabbed onto his words and she could feel that familiar anger rearing up on its hind legs, begging for permission to lunge at him, sink its teeth into his crepe-skinned neck and suck out whatever life lingered in that wankstain’s body. She forced herself to intermittently grunt or nod, feigning interested disinterest. The task helped to keep his venomous words at bay.
What you open leans against wood
that is not a door you can muffle
put your arm around the only sound
when you knock on this kitchen table
whose corners were broken off
straight down, still lit, letting you in
circle her mouth not yet the room
left over and listen for the smoke
around the hush from small fires.
Just died and its rain
is already snow, comforts
the obituary page
with moonlight pieces
slowly circling down
as that star-shaped lullaby
small stones still look for
–it’s this morning’s
though over your head the deaths
are hidden in silence
begging for water
that doesn’t break apart
the way each sky
is hollowed out for another
–you make a sea
for these dead, each name
a boat, sails, the spray
midair and out loud.
This tree abandoned at last
flows past as ravines and riverbeds
and can’t fall any more
–it’s used to dirt and those initials
you carried along inch by inch
not in some stone letting you stop
for water –you were buried
in the afternoon, late so the light
could close the lid with leftover kisses
become an ocean, still burning
and between each wave the glint
from a clear silence you took for yes.
To survive you disguise each log
as the aromatic sun the mornings
can’t resist –even when naked
you hide some kindling close by
let it give birth in the smoke
that leaves with nothing, becomes
the emptiness though your eyes
never look up or warm –a fire
is feeling its way to your mouth
with lullabies and the small stone
falling asleep on the stove
–you feed it wood as if your lips
still smell from milk and salt
–an ancient, gentle art now lost
somewhere in those nightmares
set off by an empty dress
and along your forehead the light
begins to melt, wants to stay, keep going.
Even these weeds panic
circle around your fingertips
as if the stream they fasten on
knows only one direction –the dead
still fold their arms, dare you
to raise your hand, ask for salt
clear the ground before the no! no!
stops and in the silence makes room
for flowers and your mouth
sweetened by the warm breath
it still remembers as sunlight
struggling and the pull up! pull up!
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Gibson Poems published by Cholla Needles, 2019. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.
To view one of his interviews please follow this linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8
My mom is hard to miss. She’s recognizable by her handmade skirts and Birkenstocks, by her playlists that range from Sinead O’Connor to Maroon 5. I can find her at night by the glow of Candy Crush on her phone screen. In grocery stores I track her by her sneeze: explosive, cathartic, followed by a “Whew! Thank you!” to all the people who offer a “bless you.”
When I was seven, I went to a birthday party at Inflatable Wonderland in the mall. After diving into the ball pit and getting lost in the maze, I realized suddenly I didn’t know where I was. Right as I started to panic, I saw a half-drunk diet Coke at the top of a staircase. I relaxed. It was a sign: your mom is here!