“Self-Portrait as Escape Artist” by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey


I could say at 42 I’ve escaped death already many times.
Maybe I was due, like a library book,
at an earlier age, but some spirit renewed me.

I almost drowned at three, then twice got scarlet fever
at 6 and 10. I could have died of my rare bleeding disorder
at 12; thanks to modern prescriptions, life prevailed.

I’ve become an expert at dodging tornadoes
and downed planes, traffic accidents and plain old bad luck.
I’ve been in a lot of hospitals, where doctors made mistakes—

but still, woke up every time, little worse for wear.
I’ve been scared of death, but now he seems so familiar,
an old sweater I’ve casually tossed aside so often.

Please remember when I die that I was lucky
to be here at all—my mother’s pregnancy uneasy,
birth difficult and under an ill star, infancy involving

incubators for a little baby blue me. So when I finally
take the fall, I must remember to say thank you
for the breaks that kept me ahead of the game so long.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

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Jeannine Hall Gailey: “I wrote ‘Self-Portrait as Escape Artist’ last year after I was diagnosed with metastasized cancer in my liver. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve escaped death so many times, what’s one more?’ I am happy to say I have already outlived my original prognosis so will continue to practice poetry and escaping for a little while longer.” (web)

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