Tess Gallagher
The Red Devil

the nurses on the cancer ward call it

because, like acid, if it spills

from the needle onto skin, the patient

has to have a skin graft.  Red devil

for how it singes the inside of

the veins, causes the hair to fall

out and the nails of the hands and feet

to lift from their beds, to shrivel

or bunch like defective armor.


Now the test reveals the heart

pumps 13% less efficiently.

Never mind.  Your heart

was a superheart anyway.

Now it’s normal.  Join

the club.  Get tired.  Learn to nap.

Watch the joggers loping uphill

as if they were underwater, as if

they had something to teach you

about the past, how sweet

and useless it was, taking the stairs

two at a time.  They still

call you hummingbird.

Sooner or later you’ll be flying

on your back to prove

you’ve got at least

one trick left.

Found In Volume 35, No. 02
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  • Tess Gallagher
Tess Gallagher
About the Author

Tess Gallagher is a poet, short fiction writer, and essayist.  Among her many books are Moon Crossing BridgeAmplitude: New and Selected Poems, At the Owl Woman Saloon, The Lover of Horses, and A Concert of Tenses.