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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


by Rochelle Ratner


Smile for Grandpa. No, he's not your grandpa, just a kindly old man going through the same chemo you are. Smile for him. And the first week the children smile. Week after week, he watches their bodies waste away. No energy for smiles now. He wants to take them home with him. He wants them to hear the ham radio he built himself. He wants to pull out the pots and pans and let them bang away. But they have other homes. So at three in the morning he pads into the kitchen and cuts up his wife's gold pie plates. Knowing radio waves will heat gold, knowing gold can be injected into people. Thinking maybe radio waves can heat just those cells, kill just those poisoned cells, leave the others alone. It worked on the hot dogs he kept on hand just in case the children came.

A medical lab's taken over now.


Don't ask why he went to the beach that day, except sometimes it calms him. Don't ask why he brought home a jar of salt water. Don't ask why he poured it into a tube, but the radio waves hit and it caught fire. Suddenly a new possibility for fuel. Suddenly a nation excited. But that's not what he's looking for.

Or maybe it is what he's looking for. Parents suddenly able to afford a car. Children driven back and forth to school, and maybe even play dates. Getting to the hospitals they couldn't reach before. Smiling for the doctors.

His own doctors and two reporters greet him with huge smile. Maybe that's enough for now.


Friend writes to friend writes to friend. Scientists write back to him. This sort of firewater thing's been tried before. Unfortunately it takes more energy to heat the water than to run the car.

He tears up the letter. He buys his wife new clay pie plates. He reminds himself that's not why he started this. He smiles at the latest group of children. Three of them feel well enough to smile back at him.

Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.