July 20, 2008

Veneta Masson, RN, MA

CONGA! AT THE RIO

She’s sick but determined
to celebrate my coming
for the second round of chemo.

She stuffs her bra with shoulder pads
dons a long gown and a honey blonde wig
takes her anti-nausea pill.

You’re crazy, I say
eyeing her with angst and admiration
but it’s clear she won’t be swayed,

so we set off for the Strip
and the show she’s chosen,
“Conga! at the Rio.”

We’re asked to dance. I decline.
Dare I take pleasure at such a time?
I shake my head no—

even as she’s nodding hers yes.
She gathers herself and goes,
dances the finale center stage.

Every life has a theme
and this is mine: I am the nurse,
the soul of compassion

with much still to learn about
freeing my passion and kissing
joy as it flies.

We head for home in a haze of regret,
she, for the dance, over too soon,
me, for missing another chance.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007