“The Headline Reads Processed Meat Causes Cancer, Says WHO” by Katherine Lo

Katherine Lo

THE HEADLINE READS PROCESSED MEAT CAUSES CANCER, SAYS WHO

and again I hear my mother’s voice, Says who?
challenging some claim asserted
by an expert on the radio or the President
in his State of the Union address—Says who?
she would throw back, wearing her flowered apron,
her arms akimbo, the roll in her eye visible
even when we couldn’t see her face.
No authority save God was safe from her
Says who?

Says the World Health Organization, Mom, that’s WHO,
I’d tell her if I could. If she hadn’t died fourteen years ago
of a cancer no one had heard of, not even the specialists,
even though she disdained processed meat and ate more fruits
and vegetables than anyone I know. Because whatever we eat
or drink or smoke or think, we’re all going to die someday.
Says who? A little patch of green under an arching tree,
the bronze letters on a plaque spotted with rain.

Poets Respond
November 1, 2015

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Katherine Lo: “The title of the poem is pretty self-explanatory, but this headline first made me laugh at its unintentional humor, then sparked a memory of my mother and a darker truth. Finding humor in dark things has been something of a saving grace for me over the years.” (website)

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of a project in which poets respond to current events. A poem written within the last week about an event that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday at Rattle.com. Our only criterion for selection is the quality of the poem, not its editorial position; any opinions expressed are solely those of the poet and do not necessarily reflect those of Rattle’s editors. To read poems from past weeks, visit the Poets Respond page. Interact on our Facebook group. To have a poem considered for next week’s posting, submit it here before midnight Friday PST.