"She may as well carry on now."
The cancer had turned her breast
black. She kept it hidden beneath
a thick jumper, the stink of cigarette
smoke. It was one of her few pleasures.
That, and a glass. Or two. Why deny it
now? It was black because she had
swallowed a piece of coal, she said,
let it fester in her womb in lieu of
the children she would not conceive
there, suckle at the sweetly
nauseating breast. It was something
she would not try to make sense of,
or rationalise, knowing that the
things that we love are the open
wound that we carry with us, always.
"It's just the way it goes, something's
going to kill you, isn't it?" Between
drags on her fag she smiled, terribly,
through teeth stained black. Unforgiving.
Careless of forgiveness, too.
What is there left?
What is there left? We clean
the headstone. Leave flowers.
Tidy the bit of grass the
council have missed. There are
wood pigeons calling from the
trees, swallows flying. What do
they do with their dead? Do they
mark the loss, too? It is warm,
where there were once bluebells
that have been dug up to make
room for those who no longer care.
The mark we leave, still.
A robin jumps from tree to grass.
You note its presence, wonder
if it should mean something.
J.M. Summers was born and still lives in South Wales. Previous publication credits include Another Country from Gomer Press, Borderlines, Sonic Boom, and the Amethyst Review. The former editor of a number of small press magazines, he has published one book, Niamh, a collection of prose and poetry.