You Must Climb Your Ladder of Thorns and Grow to Death
By Charlie Brice
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.