Sick Kids

Listen to Avery Yoder-Wells read their poem:

When my hair was still hanging tough,
as the little deaths in my body
kicked out patch after patch,
my shiny-bald teacher told me real ones
shave it all the way down.

Real ones don’t need to shave it
all the way down. It shaves itself.
As do our eyebrows, fading
into the skin and bone beneath.
Our eyelashes wink out like
their power grid failed. Armpits
Barbie-bare. Tube in our neck.

Thin white rings on our fingernails
counting each hospital stay
where they killed us just a bit
to keep us alive. But here’s the thing:
real ones look damn cool bald.

Real ones make a meal out of
mozzarella and orange juice and
orange bottles. Real ones swallow
pills dry to impress the nurses.
Real ones teach our weak foot
to kick again, pick our way
down stairs like a deer. Real ones
blast music to get through the shower.

Real ones get through the shower.
Get through the warm winter. Get through
the plum trees blooming for weeks,
each as red as an empty stomach.
Real ones get through again

and again. Late in treatment,
I read a poem about a cancer clinic
which said there is no restlessness
or impatience or anger anywhere.

At my cancer clinic
some kid is always screaming.

Real ones do our homework anyway.
Get our blood. Thumb our phone and
get home again. Bake a cake
with our friends that says
congrats, baldie.
Congrats: you’re a real one now.
And real ones live like hell.
Don’t let them say it won’t be pretty,

how you live, ’cause we live glorious.
Restless. Never sick of things.
And soon the swelling ebbs,
the ripples smooth from our fingernails.
Soon we look up slowly and it snows.

with a line from “At the Cancer Clinic” by Ted Kooser

Read on . . .

More about the winners of the Ninth Annual High School Writing Contest