by Dawn Terpstra
They say, pretend as if you have it, and we do in shifts.
First, I choke on phlegm in my throat,
taste your hair as you lean listening
to my chest, back of your hand to my forehead
checking for fever. You bring me Tylenol.
Your face darkens in afternoon shadow.
Next, I imagine you balled beneath the quilt,
frayed-edge family totem against contagion.
You shiver like you did that Christmas in the ICU
when I thought you were lost to a dark dream.
We imagine touching, opening family memories.
See the Polaroid faces of the ponytailed girls, eating
cake, silly-tongued grins, shooting hoops in the drive?
Our son buys a gold-edged goblet from a flea market,
his expectant, guileless, six-year-old eyes the real gift.
We find a letter written twenty-five years ago
in tidy scrawl to our oldest son’s future self,
what would he do, where would he live? Who
would tell him pretense-in-place would be
his wishing star, a nation’s hope, a global cure?
Later, we walk arm in arm across the hillside
sinking into earth’s spongy warming while meadowlark’s
pond-song ushers first peepers’ grind. We finger the bark
of the river birch curled like tiny scrolls, branches waving
overhead thick with buds, proclaiming on this day,
haven’t we survived this much, rooted to a solitary place?
Dawn Terpstra lives in Iowa where she leads a communications team. Her poetry has appeared in Third Wednesday, Neologism, Eastern Iowa Review, Raw Art Review and elsewhere.