You Must Climb Your Ladder of Thorns and Grow to Death

By Charlie Brice


For Judy


All those hospitalizations.

Seventeen surgeries. Thorn after thorn.

Afternoons I thought you wouldn’t make it.

The thirty days your gut wouldn’t open

after your fifteenth surgery for Crohn’s Disease.

The nights you sat on our couch

and cried, each tear a spear in my side.

My goofy jokes that made you smile

through salt-water showers.

Your gnarled arthritic knuckles

nails into my hands,

lashes on my back from your

crushed vertebrae and spinal stenosis.

The hours hung-up in waiting rooms

watching filthy off white walls,

waiting for doctors who,

like Roman soldiers, thrust vinegar

into our wounds with bad news.

How often I wished it would have been me,

but no one could redeem your pain.

Still, each day with you, a drink

from a deep and honeyed well,

a glimpse of butterfly wing.


Charlie Brice is a retired psychoanalyst living in Pittsburgh. He has authored two full length poetry collections: Flashcuts Out of Chaos (WordTech Editions, 2016) and Mnemosyne's Hand (WordTech Editions, 2018). His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Hawaii Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, The Dunes Review, SLAB, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Sport Literate, The Paterson Literary Review, Plainsong, and elsewhere.