I was in Los Angeles the day they scraped my father’s bladder,
at a bar called Flaming Saddles when I heard
his tumor’s trajectory. Maybe there’s a metaphor
about smog and conditions where you compare hospices.
Hospii? Surgery diverts. We don’t
say bag. He was the only cousin born in a hospital.
Eighty percent recurrence if his organs
stay. He has an abdominal aneurysm to wit.
I thought those happened in the head.
Flaming Saddles, its soft drinks better than our basement
as medical bunker, X-ray oasis.
Dad’s corduroy blazer sleeps
in the stairwell with a pewter eagle the post office gave him
on retirement. Cloth to plumes, he cleans it wing-first.
He tested mail slots throughout apartment complexes.
Slid words for thirty years.
I’ve never seen a urostomy bag.
Won’t until my father has one.
I give him whatever aviary he requires.
Dad’s Contingency Plan for Haunting
He says polterteist instead of -geist,
threatens to visit his less-than-loved.
Diagnosis spent in surgeon denial,
he’d rather cancer
recur than his bladder -ectomied.
I don’t think quality or Ouija
board that told my mother she’d
marry a man from New York—
the wedding spaghetti under-
catered, but outside-of-Albany
he came. No removal
if he wants crossbones
odds, his voice
the decibels of carpet fiber.
The Lion Box
—an ekphrasis after Fred Webster’s “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”
Mardi Gras jewelry metastasizes,
the helium fleur-de-lis reroutes traffic.
Purple and gold precede a coffin,
my three-minute drive to the post office
takes thirty, forever a stamp
that doesn’t cancer-proof
atonement. My father mauled
by pathology, chemo-tamed and
cystectomy, stoma as surgical mane
while the doll caramelizes inside
a cake. Bayou oncology,
its organ-severed float.
When the Surgeons Excise Him
Cancer won’t re-voyage a bladder if it isn’t
there. Robotics cures what a scalpel sidesteps.
The prostate follows. Disease has its hunches.
His urethra goes last. Once, we doused my mother
with something cold, numbed her overdose
while the paramedics chiseled with frost.
Urostomy, no glacier but they moor it
to my father nonetheless. His wife needs
her neurons back. The procedure without
tissue or raincheck. Uremic, close to
ceramic. They cauterize through
a kiln. Malignance embarks
on an adjustment pamphlet,
his gown a monogram watermark.
It’s the brass gate purgatory’s carpenter budgeted for,
hinge embossed on paternal bladder.
Surgeons lengthen his life during the shortest month,
something sarcophageal about prolonged.
Driving over new library tar, I learn what all they
removed. His proximity to anesthesiologists
makes me appreciate the smell of erudite
and paved. Mississippi clasps a snow day
—he attempts an ostomy—
weather astringent for this state.
His room’s window faces a church,
convalescence so sterile it mutters to stained glass.
Jon Riccio is a recent PhD graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. His work appears in print or online at Booth, The Cincinnati Review, decomP, The Ocean State Review, Permafrost, and Waxwing, among others. His first poetry collection, Agoreography, is forthcoming from 3: A Taos Press.