Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
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Lisa Suhair Majaj


I thank each day that closes quietly,
no hummingbird heartbreak

pulsing across the wires.
Time zones away, my aunt,

skin flaked and misery-ridden,
cancer raging through blood and bones,

keeps her voice cheerful on the phone,
speaks of how she’ll celebrate next Christmas,

praises the doctors, the good medical care—
though breathlessness behind vowels,

pinched wheezing, brief  “I’m nervous”
betray hard knowledge.

I remember my mother’s phrase:
whistling in the dark.

On my last visit, my aunt pulled out
the wedding album: slim-waisted girl,

hands curved round white bouquet,
face upturned to the glowing groom 

who bent toward her, while the bridesmaid,
 my mother, stood smiling on.

Two gone, one going. My aunt leaned forward,
peered closely at the photo, as if to transfix it

before her eyes forever: young bride, the tender groom,
the kiss—her face a sudden bloom of longing—

then closed the album and sank back
with tired finality. “All done,” she quietly said.