2007 – Rob O’Hanlon – Cancer

Winner of the 2007 SNHU Poetry Contest

Cancer
by Rob O’Hanlon

For Patrick

Black button up shirt, expensive jeans I stole from the mall and the sketchy black boots. Velvet Acid Christ speeds me along route 13, 149 and 202. Skinny Puppy will finish the trip on nameless back roads where cows outnumber people; to the place I’ve never lived but still call home. Jasper will bark in spurts of five until he hears my voice. Shamis and Corbin will come out into the cold as younger brothers do, to pester and ask if I’ve brought the next chapter of our Vampire game with me. Mum will be doing a million last minute projects and usher us out of the kitchen while our stepfather asks me over and over again about school. The stepfamily will arrive en masse to eat and eventually someone will mention your name, brother: Patrick, sitting in a ten by eight wearing pumpkin orange with a Puerto Rican crack-head for company. Mum may cry, she’s lost two of us four sons at seventeen, and it’s not a holiday for her or any of us with one missing. She’ll excuse herself to do something, anything and the stepfather will follow, to console. I’ll settle a glare across the table at a treacherous cousin with a big mouth I’d love to beat into an unrecognizable fucking pulp. It will be an uncomfortable hour while everyone knows but says nothing. I hope Shamis never understands. I hope he remains young forever and can avoid our hatred and anger, brother. Mum can keep him until he’s 26, to make up for our leaving so early. Three years and it will be okay again. There won’t be an empty chair waiting for you anymore, and mum won’t have to cry on top of any more mountains. She’ll come back to the table with wine, or some purposefully forgotten side dish, and someone will change the subject yet again. The stepfamily will leave as soon as the dessert trays are half empty. Shamis and Corbin will bicker over the Play station. Mom and Jason will engage in the conversation of people with terminal degrees, and I will stand in the cold and finally understand cancer.

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