Poem of the Week

The Pill

Sarah Wolfson

I am offered a pill. My grandmother was not

offered a pill. She died of cancer. She couldn’t

go to art school. It was the Depression. I went

to art school. It was the Nineties. She had the gene.

We may all have the gene. It got to her, the gene.

She ignored the signs. She didn’t know. There were signs,

but she didn’t know. How could she know? The day after

she was gone, I saw her mattress. A vast white canvas.

A month earlier, a child had been bouncing there. Bouncing

near her living body, on a quilt riddled with shapes and colors.

A quilt of joy and suffering. That bouncing the only way

she knew that child. She’d had some chances, but she barely

knew many things. She didn’t know. And then she knew

all at once. Too much. We didn’t know anything. We all

stood around not knowing. We stood around not knowing

but trying, trying to get into art school. Trying

to ignore the pains in the various parts of all of us.

Sarah Wolfson is the author of A Common Name for Everything, which won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Originally from Vermont, she now lives in Montreal, where she teaches creative writing at McGill University.
Originally published:
November 29, 2023

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