Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Frankie Drayus


Hundreds of miles you drove
———-across the Great Plains from Kansas
up into the Rocky Mountains. At the edge of
———-a particular forest you photographed
a tree for me, with a plaque explaining
———-that this was the tree my life
now owed its life to: Pacific Yew,
———-nowhere near the Pacific, here
in the mountains between Salt Lake
———-and Yellowstone. My most problematic
chemo drug comes from this tree
———-and all its progeny— toxic
to horses, dogs, cats, humans, yet
———-injected into my chest port
every Tuesday. Antineoplastic—
———-excellent at tearing apart my cells
by their microtubules. This
———-sounds violent. It is.

——————–We hope
the isolated tumor cells
———-are among the damage. We hope—
we are not
———-certain. The damage
to my tendons, damage
———-to my joints rendering me
——————–unable to walk, damage
to my skin, damage. Sometimes
———-it’s just too much. Sometimes
(by which I mean every day
———-since June) I question my judgement.

——————–“These trees,”
———-you text me from a remote location
——————–with spotty wi-fi,
———- “these beautiful trees are inside
——————–you now.”

———-We are destroying me
one cell at a time so that
———-I may live, reach, grow
older— taller in tree years.
———-My bark becoming more
wrinkled, less supple, as
———-they give me drugs to force
menopause. You will say:
———-So that you may become more
——————————a trial by fire
——————————from the inside— it always feels like
I’m being burnt—the forest
———-of me felled by another

——————————It is hard
———-to be in this body sometimes.
If I didn’t love it so much—

———-It is hard to be kind
to my liver while feeling so
———-alone. It is hard to welcome
——————–destruction of everything
I know. Knew. Goodbye, familiar—
———-you’re already gone.

what happens to a redwood forest
———-after a fire: Remember
——————--how it survives impossible
———-odds. How beautiful things can only grow
after conflagration.

———-These are not redwoods.
I am not a tree.

——————–Yesterday for the first time since
this began, I took the trees in me
———-down to the ocean. Entered
——————–up to my ankles
———-my calves
——————–my knees, all my clothes
———-still on, my field jacket on,
my huge flowered umbrella
———-open above me because these days the sun
I love hurts. The tide was coming
———-in, waves growing larger,
my clothes growing wetter—

———-My son further out with his board
turned and waved.
———-All the way past the break
——————–I could hear him singing.


(for Hyejung)


Frankie Drayus has recent work in Poemeleon, and past poems and short-shorts in Passager, BROAD, Poet Lore, Duende, Boxcar, diode, ART/LIFE (including her collage art), and elsewhere. She has facilitated workshops at Beyond Baroque, is a past co-director of the poetry nonprofit VCP, a multiyear co-curator of THE THIRD AREA, and a recent survivor of breast cancer.



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