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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

The Last Poet Standing

By Ilene Kaminsky

For Melissa Blank and Ben North



Lasting longer than the rest

The final poet stood up

Amidst thousands of books

Burned down around her feet

Now ashes to ashes, now complete.

Dust to dust sunrise to dusk

She asked the gods to slip

Into her mind what she couldn’t find

Descriptions, colors, thoughts

Flowers she’s never seen, people she

May never meet.

And instead of bursting into flame

The room cried a storm of tears

And their ashes washed away down to the street

Where they sunk into the earth

Melting the soil leaving only

The voices behind with her to hold.


Yet only the words “death”

And “afraid”

And “cancer”

Came instead.

She cried out loud

“You don’t even know me, yet you defend me.” Pleading,”please. Give me back my words, please.”

Their brilliant brains battered them.

Now in their silence and rest,

The fates leaving her alone to give some reason.

Resonance of what happens now,

What do we do today

Now they’ve gone away.

A child asks these stupid things

Adults respond without a clue

Nothing to say, less they can do.

Yet,

She persisted and insisted on their behalf.

It’s no good, to herself again

Another crumpled page atop

The mountain piled high.

That night she sat

Opening and straightening and reading

But throwing each into the stove.

Her words cremated and remain forever unheard.

Her heart beat hard in her chest

Under the thousand pounds of weight.

She’d heard a ton of stones

Weighs exactly the same as a

Ton of feathers,

Rocks kill quick

While feathers from an unseen bird

Float into her mouth taking her breath and

Slowly suffocating the poetess.


The world turned again

And written in her hand the morning after

She picked up the papers reading

Only “death” and “fear” and “cancer”

Not one the right answer.


The poem, it’s complete

Yet one simple question remained

Unanswerable. What’s there to gain

By knowledge, here anyway?

But why choose me?

In her head a baritone voice said:

“You tell me why.”

And then she did.

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