By Gretchen Filart
My daughter quipped, You have been saying that since last year.
Capitalism enslaved me while washing its hands off with cigarette packs bearing pus-filled tumors, skinned throats & fleshy wounds.
My temple throbbed from chain-smoking four cigarettes with lager.
Like all mornings, a cold splash of water on the face before I muttered ugly panda eyes. Eyelids shut in rapture as brewed coffee & nicotine lorded over the sinews.
For each smoke break, a toothbrush, mouthwash & citrus spray to keep my nose from complaining.
My tongue searched for places to touch, but worried that few men won’t whine, I can taste the cigarette against the mint.
For every sore, I thought of writing a last will.
I have tended to chemo patients & laid flowers on their coffins. Sometimes I imagined my palms, bone-white, receiving the garlands.
Death has not frightened me as much as my kid not knowing she was loved the most.
Seventeen years ago, our Anatomy professor came to class, shaky hands beaded with sweat. I’m sorry, I’m late, he said. My nephew accidentally ingested cyanide while cleaning his rings. I was his attending doctor. I’ve seen this happen before. But it’s not the same when it’s someone you know.
I dreamed of him, only it was my daughter in a white coat, holding the mic. Eyes swollen, 10-year-old voice a fissure in the hollow halls. I’m sorry, I’m late. My mom ingested cyanide for 23 years. I was her attending doctor. I’ve seen this happen before. But it’s not the same when it’s her in the casket, knowing she loved suicide more than me.
Gretchen resides in the chaotic comforts of the Philippines, where she writes poems and creative nonfiction about motherhood, love, grief, nature, and intersectionalities. A finalist in phoebe’s 2023 Spring Poetry Contest and second place in Navigator’s Around the World in 80 Pages 2017 Travel Writing Competition, her work appears in Rappler, Door Is A Jar, phoebe, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Say hi via her website,ourworldinwords.com, or Twitter and Instagram @gretchenfilart.
Enjoyed Gretchen's work? Send a tip straight to her PayPal: email@example.com