Letter from the Trenches by Jeanne Bryner

Winter’s early yard, birds consume the crabapple’s berries
I’m afraid the ornamental pear’s not going to survive, the rain
just too much, the sodden ground leads to root rot
but our cousin says he thinks she’ll pull through. 
Wait, he says with a knowing smile, see what happens next spring
Sonny’s got lung cancer, and him leaning close to brown trouble
palpating its every leaf, studying our tree 
while he’s being sawn in half, well, hell
his words are pure fire.  Morning fog and dampness rise
like steam from coffee. We’re all in sad shape, if not
for our boxer, we’d sleep till noon, out of breath, out of good ideas
on how best to stand up and fight hard like Sonny. Most nights
I sleep like a dead person, dream I’m scolding my husband
Do not forget your heart pills. I mean the medicine
for him and Sonny and all of us, it works until it does not.
My mind spins, I make lists, I write stuff down
knowing the porch wind chimes won’t sound the alarm 
our boxer almost never barks and the invaders, they are already here.

Jeanne Bryner was born in Appalachia. She's a retired nurse with several books in print and co-edited Learning to Heal: Reflections on Nursing School in Poetry and Prose which won the 2019 Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association. She's received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, Ohio Arts Council and Vermont Studio Center.

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