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Issue 4.2

Summer 2024

Donna Isaac


Though I hesitated in writing poetry focused on a cancer diagnosis, the specter of it, the time it consumes, the immersion in it, its indefatigable presence overwhelms. This poem represent a lack of control with mixed and inevitable choices. It focuses on language—oxymoronic and symbolic—juxtaposing words to evoke a feeling of unfeeling, numbness in the face of overwhelming forces. Cancer chooses for you the course of action or inaction, your body "formulated, sprawling on a pin/...pinned and wriggling on the wall" (T.S. Eliot). 

Tightrope: After Chemo


yellow mums

like tarnished spoons

dip the moon


deep down numb

the veins and feet

knee-deep drifts the way


beastly flit of brush wolf

frozen mudprints skulk

stars tarry, some fly


uncurling leaves broken gingerbread men

glued into river silt

pathway into dropoff flounder


for-ever feels halfway

gulp of surface air

brambles, holes to catch


stumble rock the way

vanishing point this lane

caverns of the red mind

Poet Donna Isaac is a teaching artist/organizer of community literary events through the League of MN Poets. She has a B.A.  (James Madison University); an M.A. (University of Minnesota); and an M.F.A. (Hamline University.)  A new book of poems by Finishing Press, In the Tilling, is forthcoming.

Donna's Book Recommendations

During this time of ongoing treatments, I am re-reading or reading for the first time the collected works of William Shakespeare. There is no greater poet, the language, so rich. I also read Blended Voices: Blending the Voices of Virginia Poets, a collection by the Poetry Society of VA in which poets wrote their own works, meshing in the exact words from four famous poets, producing surprising harmonies of old and new lines. 

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