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by Cynthia Neely

The sheets were pristine, so clean. Wait, go back . . . 
The air . . . yes. The air was clean 
like a baby's breaching breath . . . no
wait. Back further. 
Before my pen described a needle. 
Still, before a needle stilled 
your life. And Mother needed 
not to cradle me 
like an infant, or beg me 
to remember floating on the bay. 
Before the needle did its seeking 
through belly swell and amniotic sea. 
Stop  wait  further 
Before your father shaved my head 
Before the wigs I didn't like 
Before I shopped for scarves instead 
No No No. Before 
                  the drip drip drip
the cysplat-poisoned veins 
discreetly positioned pans 
the vague white-coated comfort: 
You can always have another...
Before the errant cell
Before I had to tell
I'd choose 
over you.
Yes, further, further. Before
before, when the air was clean,
when I was clean, and wings were filled, 
and you still floated on your own private bay. 
Before I balanced on reflection's edge,
lay quiet on pristine sheets with stirrupped feet.
Before I harbored sparrows in my breast 
and could not speak 
for fear of losing those that fluttered darkly
to escape

"Comfort" was originally published in the author's poetry volume, Fight Path.

Cynthia Neely is a painter and poet who lives in Washington state. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer in 1988, which resulted in the loss of her unborn child. She began writing in 2006 because, even though she was an 18-year survivor, she still could not make sense of such a loss. Cynthia won the Hazel Lipa Poetry Chapbook Prize, was a finalist in the Aldrich Press Book Contest resulting in a published volume of poetry, Flight Path, and has been published in many journals including The Bellevue Literary Review. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing.