Pectoriloquy |

Cynthia Teaches Me How to Paint FREE TO VIEW

Mary Brancaccio, MFA
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Editor’s Note:The author writes, “In this poem, I explore my childhood memories of my aunt, who battled a rare blood disease most of her life. She had surgery to remove blood clots along the wall of her lung. I found myself re-imagining her death and her surgery.” Mary Brancaccio has an MFA in Poetry from Drew University.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.

Chest. 2014;146(3):871. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0205
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North for my tenth summer.
Auntie positions my brush: Look
with the eye, sketch what you see.
You’re too thin, she fusses and fries
Moon Over Miami, its ochre yolks ascendant
in a sky of red bologna & seared toast.
My chewed nails, she overlooks,
my calluses that cushion my pen when I write,
my teeth marks on fingers sucked for comfort.
Clouds on my nail beds? She tallies:
You have seven secret loves!
Like her sables, her fingertips splay,
and flirt as they plait braids,
and flit between canvas and stove.
In a cabana at the lake, I spy her surgical scar.
I long to soothe its jagged threads. Decades later,
she’ll die alone, B-movie on TV, last cigarette
smoldered to ash in her fingers, her fridge nearly bare:
one egg, a slice of bread, a dried salami curl.
Everywhere paintings. Her last work: shirt soaked red
as if scalpel sliced from breastbone to scapula
to expose rosebuds, tightly furled.




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