Laura Van Prooyen

A Year Like None Other

That year all elective surgeries were cancelled, and I
was the only patient. Once my appendix was gone,
my abdomen cleared of the spill, I was neither
sick nor well. Recovering, but alone.

Because we are all in danger
of what we cannot see:  no visitors. A nurse
to help me shower, to check bandages when I pressed
the button to be seen.

I can move these days without fear in the company of scars.

That year I lost an organ, a job, a month to my couch
and flannel quilt. I lost the day
my dad was in the hospital, and my mom was home alone.

I called her four times, and she forgot
each time I called.

That year the world slowed, returning me to boredom
and for the first time, I saw gliding across
my garden pathway, a baby snake.

I learned nothing matters. But then, it does
whatever it is—a maraschino cherry.
A wren nesting in a barrel of leaves. So, I sit in silence

with my eyes closed, open to stillness
that says we are alone
and there are many ways to die.  That year

I wore workout pants with pockets to hold my phone
to track steps, as if going somewhere.

That year I stood in a long quiet line
to vote for change
when two hungry dogs approached each person,

a dachshund with heavy, swaying teats,
missing patches of fur, a Chihuahua mix,
hobbling on three legs, its fourth tucked up, broken
unable to support weight. They left
as hungry as they came. What change.

That year, because of a new way of thinking
I popped popcorn nearly every day.

Best as I could
I stayed away from the people I love.
I kept my breath to myself.

I wished and did not wish to return to the life I had.

Laura Van Prooyen                            

Laura Van Prooyen is author of three collections of poetry: Frances of the Wider Field (Lily Poetry Review Books) Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press) nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press). She is also co-author with Gretchen Bernabei of Text Structures from Poetry, a book of writing lessons for educators of grades 4-12 (Corwin Literacy). Van Prooyen is the Managing Editor for The Cortland Review and is the founder of Next Page Press: She lives in San Antonio, TX.