It’s January in the infusion room, every lounger taken, snow
puddling on the floor. I’m pillowed, ported,
feet up in my lounger, pretending to read Thoreau.
I’m here with twenty others. The air is an icy chatter
between the chairs. Phyllis sits across from me,
asks the nurse about a cocktail.
Phyllis, the pretender. Phyllis, as old as my father
who’s had cancer twice before.
She’s IV’d, tethered, knitted pink as the day she was born.
She begins her infusion and suddenly she’s gone.
What ice of fear she slips on—
She’s gone or I am,
the Taxol taking over, hands and feet
iced to full pins and needles.
Phyllis, anaphylactic. Phyllis, tilting in her chair.
I move to my feet like a dumb animal
and wave the nurses over.
They disconnect her, gather round her
like a fire to warm their hands. They sit her upright
in the middle of their care. Phyllis, liminal,
a melt of diphenhydramine. Phyllis, returned to her chair
a little more like Phyllis, but better.
Not even Thoreau knew his woods in the winter—
stripped of every bright cell,
every leaf that made it familiar.
And now Phyllis, and now I, am bare.
Laura Paul Watson lives and writes in Pine, Colorado. She is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida. She recently was shortlisted for the 2021 Manchester Poetry Prize, and her work appears in Agni, Boulevard, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.