Missing Shapes and
Other Poems


Missing Shapes

Mr. B, R.’s art teacher, probably high as a trapezoid, says,
Sometimes shapes are made of other shapes. That’s just the way shapes are.


Now draw what is living and what is not living. R. is decisive:
Banana—living. Potato—living.


But is that only while still attached to the plant?
Is it still living in our kitchen, a doomed existence?


Teeth—living.
Eyebrow—living.


It feels easier to deny these parts, our parts,
their autonomy: you’re nothing without me.


Though don’t certain older gentlemen’s eyebrows
seem to sprout independent existences?


And what about the heart?
We talk about heart transplants, think about the organ


alive between vessels, maintaining its own beat,
and the new body and this guest must decide if they agree,


if they can now live together as one entity.
I don’t tell R. about the mother I worked with


at the children’s hospital, helping her to write poetry,
as her child was on a waitlist to receive a new heart.


She told me she wasn’t sure what to wish for anymore.
She told me healthy hearts that can be used for transplant


are usually the result of death by trauma,
some unexpected blow. Which is especially terrible to think about


in children. Could she in all good conscience hope for that to happen,
a heart small enough for her child wrested free?


We worked together for several sessions.
A few months later I learned that they were granted a new heart,


and her child seemed to be doing well postsurgery.
But she herself had died. The mother, I mean.


Out of nowhere, a sudden unexpected ailment.
I couldn’t understand it either. Hate writing it even now.


But I think of her often, how she held that terrible knowledge of shapes
made of other shapes, of the way things are,


and the shape of her now missing.


In the Right Light

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