Be ready — my friend

shows me his scar, lifting up

a pullover the color of old peas, and pointing

to a line that travels from sternum to where denim

dips at the zipper. Neither of us look as we look.


What we see is where he used to bend

instead of clench. Today we sit in the rapid shift of spiked light

in the oblong dread widening at his kitchen window. He’s honed his smile.

Lines on his forehead connect like mountains. What did you do

yesterday I ask as drops of water march from the faucet

to the metal belly of the sink. What did you how will you

and what can I go on saying when what I am saying is go on…


It’s been three weeks since a Baltimore doctor removed all

his threats; stomach, spleen, gallbladder, appendix, the omentum fold

and nodules on his liver and colon. His body has become

a ravaged puzzle, a catalog of holes. He takes a breath, looks into

his hand with his shaved face. The phone doesn’t ring


though we listen. A stiff bristle of sun leaves its bones at the sill.

I blink when he does. When he leans back, his shadow bends. For a while,

we share a selection of pulses and the slow appreciation

of previous days. After time, we twist back to the heroic structure

that razors apart, accepting staples and drainage ports. Another chapter

in the saltless naming of life. The error is to think of a body


as shelter. I hate the thin bouquet

of sorrys I deliver with my eyes. It will take all my days

to learn how to set my mouth to uneven truths, how to

be ready when there’s nothing to hold to,

no weight, and no usual way.



Lauren Camp is the author of two books. Her third collection, One Hundred Hungers, won the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Lauren is a 2015-2018 Black Earth Institute Fellow and the recipient of the National Federation of Press Women Poetry Book Prize, the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize and an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award. She produces and hosts Audio Saucepan on Santa Fe Public Radio. 


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