The doctors tell me the main tumor
in my chest is the size of a softball.
She uses a double strand of yarn
and thin knitting needles so the arms and walls
to cover my chest and back will be thick.
There are more in my bronchial system,
my neck, below my diaphragm, and maybe
in my spleen. The sweater will warm me
even in the wind. She had to do Catholic
Penance, a mother’s labor, she repeats
non-stop clicks with yarn, mostly acrylic,
so it can’t be eaten and
will never decay. She says it is her
fault. She should have stopped me from
sneaking onto that stupid golf course at night, swimming
with mosquitoes, diving the black lake for lost balls
through industrial fertilizer and green dyes, as if
she knows what caused my lymph node cancer
when no one else does. She tries to cure me, feels
my forehead, clicks the needles together again
and again until her fingers hurt and wrists ache
and she can hardly stand up from sitting so long.
So I tell her that leaves on trees blow left
then right, some rattle and flip,
some move hardly at all, yet some are first to fall
to the ground. I tell her the sweater
is coming along great as she watches me lose
weight lying in bed. The needles click as she approaches
another threshold of pain that relieves her.
All through each long day
our nightgowns hug each other
on the bedroom hook.
The Sweater was first published in the Ocean State Review in 2016.
“Everyday” was first published in Smeuse Poetry, a print anthology, in 2017.
Roger Sippl studied creative writing at UC Irvine, UC Berkeley and Stanford Continuing Studies. He’s been published in a few dozen literary journals and anthologies, including the Ocean State Review and the Bacopa Literary Review. Before that he was a pre-med who survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which changed everything.