“Conga! at the Rio” by Veneta Masson

Veneta Masson, RN, MA


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


Veneta Masson, RN, MA: “A nurse and poet, my special interest is healing art. ‘Conga!’ is one of a number of poems that had their origin in my experience of my younger sister’s illness and eventual death from breast cancer. Though Rebecca and I talked about our evening out on the way home (‘This will never happen again!’ I vowed, giving no thought to all this would come to mean), it took me years to get the poem right.” (web)

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