Monday, October 12, 2009

The Things They Carry (Poem)

This poem was written several months ago, in response to posts on Our Cancer, an online support group in which I have been active for some time. A number of my more recent poems have found their genesis on that site but I like to think the words are about a whole lot more than cancer.

The Things They Carry


Wipes, diapers, burp bibs,
   a portable changing pad
Clothing change (maybe two)
Stroller, sun lotion, blanket, keys
Off! depending on time of year
Graham crackers and juicy cup
Tin of cheerios and apple juice
Tape, crayons, glue sticks
Magic markers, hand sanitizer
Rubber stamps and ink pad
Sketch pad and coloring books
Colored pencils and sharpener
Alphabet stickers, tiny-hands scissors
Stencils, picture books, music tapes
Throw-away camera for not-to-be-missed moments
Kit to render first-aid


The clothes on his back
Swiss Army knife
Recycler's acumen
Grocery cart (one wheel that won't stay on)
Cardbox box, heavy plastic tarp
Newspapers, yellowed foreclosure notice
Mensa member card, expired Rx bottle
Plastic shopping bags (no ties)
Styrofoam cups (one for coins)
Refillable plastic water bottles
Salvaged energy bars
1 umbrella, its ribs broken
Green Salvation Army-issued blanket
2 quarters a dime and a nickel
The Good Book
Cardboard "Will Work for Food" sign
Magic markers, hand sanitizer
Someone's morning pastry, last night's handouts
The story of his life


List of questions and spaces for answers
State-issued parking pass/disabled tag
1 small plastic bin and extra liners (just in case)
Cooler, ice packs, bottled water, juice packs
Saltines, plastic spoons, fork and knife
Magazines and New York Times crossword puzzles
Hand-sanitizer, hand towels, soft hankies, tissues
More tissues
Toothpaste and brush, gum and mints
Disinfecting wipes (for chair, tv, remote, etc.)
Plastic gloves and freshening wipes
Back pillow
Menus for local restaurants (when there's time)
Cell phone, charger, phone numbers
Coins for times cell phone won't work
Chemo and radiation schedules
Appointment records, Rx records, OTC drug
   records, lists of supplements/vitamins
Blood-work results and comparisons
Button-down shirt, comfortable shoes, easy-waist pants
Replacements for the above (just in case)
Books on tape, books not on tape
iPod and earplugs
Study Bible (optional), highlighter, journal
Pen to collect thoughts and recall dreams
Something to hold all of the above


Silence on lips, words in stolen glances
The feeling when two hands touch
Power of attorney, medical directive
The mind's eye
A god-box of after-thoughts
List of questions and spaces for answers

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.


Glynn said...

The seasons of life. Nice.

nAncY said...

good eye openers

idelette said...

I love your poem. We carry so much.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Maureen, thank you for this poem. I work with people who often only have the story of their life to carry -- and all I can carry for them is hope.

Thank you.


Marcus Goodyear said...

I love the combination of iPod and earplugs!

Also, I have to ask--have you read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien? One of my all time favorite books...

Eggs In My Pocket / Yesteryear Embroideries said...

Hi Maureen, came over to visit you from the email you sent. Just love your blog and your words! blessings,Kathleen

Claudia said...

the things they paint quite a picture with your words..and maybe not only the umbrella ribs are broken..

Brian Miller said...

nice. i like the contrast and in the end the people that carry them are not much different...smiles.

Alegria Imperial said...

Compelling images especially part IV. Indeed, what's left of life at that point. Things that never seemed to matter while it was lived. Things that mean most now on that last frame. Thanks for distilling this thought in your poem.

moondustwriter said...

I love the contrast and similarities
well spoken Maureen

thanks for pulling it up for us to read from the archived

Have a great start to your week

Reflections said...

Oh the similarities... the plight of homeless a cancer within their lives, eating away at the being of their soul.