When did I get so old?
I swear a part of me
never evolved beyond six.
I still miss playing
on the oversized fruit
at the mall,
when my parents still lived
under the same roof.
I can’t ever forget
the look on my mom’s face
as her three babies waved down at her
from the bananas and waffles,
while she was sitting all alone,
lost in a sea of mothers.
And maybe I like
the smell of secondhand smoke,
because it reminds me
of my grandpa
& I drowning in laughter
and high off the results
of giving wine to a 12 year old.
I find my hair and my head
answering only to gravity,
listening only to static.
But something keeps peeking
through the pages
and up out under the covers.
Oh wait, it’s only springtime.
Providence was left behind
on the way up to space
or at the checkout counter,
and all that I wanted to be when I grew up.
I still don’t know what I want to be,
with skin of electricity.
and a mind of orange pulp.
Plant these seeds to grow
beyond what I’ve become:
Hurryupplease, its time:
Here we are now
laughing, our way out of a home.
And out of a life?
My mother’s breasts were possessed—
in her breath, up her spine.
All the while my sister’s belly sat quiet,
I am too scared to say sorry.
I am too afraid to rub your baldhead.
I shook the whole way home from the hospital,
Gasping my first breath of life
as your lunch hit the dash,
while life transformed within, and burst from sister in the night.
Life replaces life.
Daughter replaces Mother.
But her life is irreplaceable. Earlier on
the two of you got so mad
you caused milk to rain
through the kitchen air,
only to land on the other’s head.
Funny, where the time goes.
Like liquid through the years.
It doesn’t feel much like a circle, a ring around,
it just tastes like sugarwater,
sweet enough to keep drinking)
if you believe in that sort of thing.
Ashes and dust are the same anyway.
I chose to title this poem “Metastasize” because it means, approximately, to grow dangerously. It also serves as a pun; for my mother’s cancer began metastasizing throughout her body in 2008—and this was the main motivation for the poem. All the inspiration stemmed from that. Also, this poem is about growth, especially growth through “dangerous” experiences, like watching a loved one helplessly decline. That is why I started with being six, when the most important thing in life was getting to play on those oversized fruit. Everything was simple. And from there, growth occurred, and simplicity became further and further away. Another source of inspiration for this piece was my sister’s first pregnancy. I was excitedly becoming an aunt/seeing life created, while simultaneously seeing life deteriorate in my mother. It was the oddest parallel, and it forced me to confront the natural cycles of life and death, innocence and experience, and growth and decay— though they felt anything but “natural.”
I used the line from Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” because within that line he seems to be saying “wake up.” And all of the experiences I had accrued throughout 2008 kind of shocked me awake (“Gasping my first breath of life / as your lunch hit the dash”). I wrote “Metastasize” in December of that year. And I was able to write it so quickly (in about ten minutes), because my experiences seemed to finally overwhelm me at the year’s end. I had been sitting on them, reflecting as they brewed, for months, and they finally came out.
A couple of the literary techniques I used were very particular enjambments, including the line “Milkchemoplacentavomitvodkacoffee.” I presented this line this way because I wanted it to be read and experienced like I would imagine your life flashing before your eyes must be like—a whirl of images. Only I used liquids that had been such a large part of the “dangerous” experiences defining that year. The liquid theme is intertwined with the theme of growth this poem is founded on.
The only editing that I undertook on this poem was putting “sister” in place of “her.” For example, “while life transformed within, and burst from sister in the night,” originally read “while life transformed within, and burst from her in the night.” I submitted this poem to a competition last April, and I needed it to be better understood by any reader— not just by those who know me personally.
Overall, “Metastasize” is about innocence awakening into complexity through experience.