Poem of the Week | October 03, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is dedicated to the memory of Andi Werblin Reid (1965 – 2022). Andi, a truly special poet and friend, died on August 5th. We are honored to celebrate her life and share her marvelous writing with you. Thank you for reading.

Andi Werblin Reid is the author of two books of poetry: Lullaby for One Fist (Wesleyan University Press), and Sunday with the Sound Turned Off (Lost Horse Press). Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Smartish Pace, Arts & Letters, and others.


Language is the Virus

the first rule of fight metaphors is there are no fight metaphors.

the second is, will you just stop kidding yourselves?

it’s not like you didn’t already know how to be insufferable pilgrims

radiant with judgement. they say she lost her battle with-

like it was a duel she entered at dawn, like she was ever in possession

of a pistol. there is no fight against. there is live with, for as long

as humanly possible. and that’s another thing you ought to examine,

why some people’s lives are more salt-in-the-wound than breath

on the beard of an iris. there is the solitary devil of her disease.

there are swing sets, volcanoes, that time she hurt her foot

tripping over rocks near the river. how about mineral then?

how about saying, she has gone to the quarry, having found the dolomite

of her dreams? to die is not to lose. survive is not akin to conquer.

as for guarantees, there aren’t any anyway, only sonnets and foxes

and the memory of her crinkly hand on the doorknob.

she didn’t fail at being human, at least you don’t think she did,

but who are you, who are we, each of us excruciatingly mortal.


Author’s Note

This poem confronts the controversial battle language that is commonly applied to living with disease, specifically with cancer. I have struggled with the implications of war metaphors and the perspectives they perpetuate since receiving my own cancer diagnosis more than three years ago. Not only does “battle” language negate what it means to live with disease, but it implies a person is a loser if they die “fighting”. Might the language of war be a kind of violence?–patients don’t fail treatments, treatments fail patients. People living with cancer and other chronic illnesses are not taking up arms, they are living as long and as humanely as possible: not to win or lose, simply to live.