“A Hard Lump” by Jackleen Holton

Jackleen Holton


sprung up on the right side of my neck
so I went to the doctor, who patted around
the mass, told me it was probably nothing, a cluster
of pissed-off cells, a mini-revolt.
I started to say the word I feared.
No, he said, probably not that, but we’ll run some tests.
Just as I thought, he told me after the needle biopsy,
the CT scan, just a minor populist bloc.
In fact, it looks smaller than before.
Go home, rest. Then we’ll do another scan.
And after that, because it had begun to throb,
a little fist just under my jugular vein,
I said I think it wants to do me in, but he shook
his head, and then he cut me, pulled out the bloody
lump and sewed me back up. I went numb.
He told me I might not feel anything
for about a year. I tried to speak but my voice
came out like a weak wind.
After they biopsied it, he called to say
that it was after all the thing I’d feared,
and that there were surely more pockets
of fascist cells. He said we have to go into battle,
we’ll use this agent we found in the war.
I said I had to think about it. He said don’t think too long.
I went home and cried until a sleep like death
came and covered me, and a god I didn’t know
if I believed in held me in her arms
and whispered you have to love it,
but I knew I already did because it had broken me
open, sent my roots down, it gathered my friends
around me, and we wove a shawl
of prayers. And I said Jesus, and she nodded
even though that’s not her full name. And I said America,
that’s what I call my body sometimes,
we have to love ourself now, we can’t go back
again, we must use this to grow into something
so much greater than we’ve ever been.

from Poets Respond
February 16, 2020


Jackleen Holton: “John Dean said to President Nixon during the Watergate scandal: ‘We have a cancer within—close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding.’ In the week following Trump’s acquittal by senate Republicans, it is more apparent than ever that the cancer on this presidency has compounded and continues to spread throughout our republic.”

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