The difference between hopelessness and remission,
Dr. Revici claims, can be measured
by small changes in ph.
I buy a package bulging with glass bottles.
This one drink, these two inject.
The others put in capsules. Write down
alkaline or acid. Very simple.
Three times a day I pee on a strip
and wait for color to rise.
You’re a swimming pool, my husband jokes.
In childhood it was my job to test the water.
I dunked the plastic rectangle
until both compartments filled, then carefully
carried it to the basement shelf where chemicals
were stored. Shook the bottles. Added three drops
to each side and watched the water bloom.
Too red meant a cup of powder poured
in the deep end; too yellow and I’d unscrew the top
from the chlorine bucket, eyes and nose burning,
grab a tablet and take it to the filter’s net.
My brother and I swam for hours, diving
for pennies our parents threw, taking turns
with the good mask. I could hold my breath
the whole length, slide my belly across the smooth
bottom, practice somersaults and handstands
until my fingers pruned and lips blued.
One day I tried laps.
Winded by five, I took weeks
to build to ten. Another week to fifteen,
then twenty – breaststroke, backstroke, crawl –
a steady striving through water
suddenly spacious and yielding as sky.
Thirty-five, thirty-six, the water
chilled in spots weak morning sun had yet to find.
Forty-seven, forty-eight, my rhythm
the earth’s rhythm, fatigue fallen away. Sixty,
sixty-one, sixty-two, I swam
beyond thinking. Beyond time.
Ninety-nine. The final push
of feet against side,
glide, then stroke, one hundred.
I pulled myself out,
stood dripping and triumphant on cobblestones;
gulped the sweet late summer air. Certain
my body could do anything.
Bilious lump, the liver
holds a virus like a grudge. Silently
festers for decades.
My doctor offers 40-60 odds, a year
of fever, hair loss, muscle pain,
anemia. Calls me foolish for refusing.
The herbal master mutters,
stagnant anger, hands me
heavy sacks. I boil,
then choke down the odiferous brew.
Acupuncture, soul retrieval, a slick
hypnotist’s low drone, powdered
clam shells, oil of oregano, green tea…
Before, I was
a lucky midlife woman planning
family camping trips. Now,
beaten by the long arm
of the body’s law,
I am a cautionary tale.
The one that almost got away.
Alison Stone has published three chapbooks and six full-length collections: Caught in the Myth (NYQ Books, 2019); Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017); Masterplan, a book of collaborative poems with Eric Greinke (Presa Press, 2018); Ordinary Magic (NYQ Books, 2016); Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014); and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin Award. She was writer-in-residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack.