Someone I love is dying & that is why I’m at Home
Depot, in the grout aisle, unable to choose between
charcoal & platinum, trying to decide if marked space
between tiles is what I want. Our lives are a series
of black gaps. Someone I love is dying & this is what
I say to myself, not knowing what it means. Today,
a Ukrainian woman told Russian soldiers to fill
their pockets with seeds, so sunflowers would grow
from their dead bodies & this is hope somehow like
paper cranes that dangle from the ceiling of the Todd
Cancer Pavilion, where bald & breastless women wait
to be called. And I want to know, when did cranes
stop being birds? When is a thing no longer itself?
3000 miles from here, in the Living Museum
at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, patients
paint their demons, twist torment into wire
sculpture in the old kitchen hall-now-art-studio—
across the street from Hillside Diner, a stainless-steel
lunch car I spent Saturday mornings as a child. Silver
dollar pancakes, blueberry compote, my father’s
BLTs. Someone I love is dying & the sharp chalk
of dinner mints spooned from the register’s shiny tin
bowl swirls on my tongue, where I turn the word
metastasis, fold & crease it into a poem & I wonder if this
is what the Greeks meant by transformation. I tell myself
it doesn’t matter how things become other, that the dark
space between is nothing more than some before now lost
to us, that there is only what is: Hillside Diner is a Denny’s.
Paper cranes are not birds. There are flowers in bone
just waiting to bloom.
Ja’net Danielo is the author of the chapbooks This Body I Have Tried to Write, winner of MAYDAY Magazine‘s 2022 Micro Chapbook Poetry Contest, and The Song of Our Disappearing (Paper Nautilus, 2021). A recipient of a Professional Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the Telluride Institute’s Fischer Prize, her poems have appeared in SWWIM Every Day, Parentheses Journal, The Shore, Mid-American Review, Radar Poetry, and elsewhere. She teaches at Cerritos College and lives in Long Beach, CA, where she facilitates Word Women, a free virtual poetry workshop and retreat series for women and gender nonbinary writers. You can find her at jdanielo.com.