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Sunday, February 21, 2021


by Richard Fox

"People are bloody ignorant apes." 
—Estragon in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

1. Polio

Mom makes pancakes for breakfast on a Wednesday.
Gives me a gorilla hug at the bus stop.
At school, we hang up coats, march to the All-Purpose Room.
The nurse smiles, watches us down cups of clear liquid. 
The principal anoints each forehead with a gold star. 

2. Cancer

Mothers quiz me about Gardasil* for daughters. 
I endure HPV*-caused tumors, 
so pegged their expert.
My plea, heed pediatricians.
Inoculate girls and boys by age eleven.
They choose to delay, let their kids ripen. 
Maybe by sixteen, the children can decide.

3. Ba’al

the field of stones 
chiseled memorials
first born sons
throats slit

* Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents the HPV virus from causing oral and cervical cancer. Anti-vaxxers promote false research that a side effect is autism. Because HPV is spread sexually (not necessarily via intercourse), they claim the vaccine is tacit approval for teenage sex.

When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard Fox focuses on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of five poetry collections and the winner of the 2017 Frank O’Hara Prize.