This Will Be the Day that I Die

By Kara Cochran

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Blurry I blink open
to Madonna in 
tacky tiara
and low-riding jeans, time-stop
dancing in a blue-red sepia swirl
before the stars and stripes
skinny arms sprawling bare
exposed hips swirling
bye bye Miss American Pie.

I don’t realize it’s the TV
until the doctor rolls in,
feel needles stiff under
sticky circles sucked to my chest
reading faint signs of life.


In a rush it comes back:
family vacation
trip to the Eiffel Tower
whining siblings hushed
by Haagen-Dazs
lemon creme pie scooped
on my tongue, cold turned to
prickling, buzzing, itching
when we ask, no, no nuts
in the manager’s slippery burr

but when we’re back at the hotel
my throat’s in flames
tongue swelling in biological rage
red welts across arms,
legs and back
a wildfire throbs my body’s landscape
Mom gasps as she lifts my shirt.

She’s calling for help
but my body is rejecting me
my eyes rolling back
consciousness foaming
white at my lips
as sounds and images fade.


The rest is told to me,
near-death legend
of the ambulance that never came
the cab ride to the hospital
Dad’s oxygen in my lungs
clothes sheared, IVs
damage control and heavy drugs
drowsed and poked
anaphylaxis enough
to stop my heart cold,
brain left in the dark.


After it all
I am left breathing
lucky as a coin toss.
still it comes back —

the driver in front
runs a darting squirrel flat
dying children making wishes
grandma’s vacant stare
as she recognizes nothing
the flag folded for grandpa
white gloved hands
rippling with rain
Christmas trees at the curb
the touch of my fingers
on her soft, prickly scalp

the dread of loss
the space of what leaves us
the line between
faint as a breath.

– Kara Cochran