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The Take

The Take: Bill Glose

Road Trip to Duke
                 by Bill Glose

Not once on the long trip down
do we mention our motive,

the manila-enveloped passenger in back,
the magnetically-resonanced images

and sheaf of medical assessments.
We play games instead, racing

through alphabets, cataloguing
state slogans, slug-bugging a shoulder

now and then. A Virginia sign proclaims
This county invented Brunswick Stew,

and you tell me about the time you visited
a Ruritan Club where gallons of stew

cooked in a five-foot vat, stirred
with an oar meant to paddle a boat.

Arriving early at Duke University,
we stroll through campus, all those

Gothic spires and crenellations,
grand arches fit for a parade.

Our last stop is the Medical Center,
avoided till the weight we’re dragging

sticks in its furrow,
ploughshare snapped on stone.

The trip home is quiet,
you, reclining, pretending to doze,

me, staring at the double-yellow line,
wondering how anything

can be so straight and simple.
We stop for dinner
in Brunswick County,
but no restaurants have stew

on the menu, and all the stores
on Main Street are boarded up.

Editor’s Statement:

There is potent contrast in the poem; the lightness of road trip games versus diagnosis.  “The weight we’re dragging/sticks in its furrow,/ploughshare snapped on stone” is an apt metaphor for facing a reality of illness upon arrival at the medical center.  The couplets, shorter lines, and diction allow a reader to travel the poem with an ease that belies the fear underneath.  I, too, was left “wondering how anything/can be so straight and simple” and knew it was not so.

-Malisa Garlieb

Artist Statement: 

After being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, my girlfriend sought a second opinion. I drove her to Duke University Hospital where an oncologist said he was willing to operate with a radical procedure that had as much chance of killing her as saving her. If it succeeded, she would be tethered to an oxygen tank for the rest of her life. It was on this backdrop that I wrote the poem, “Road Trip to Duke.”

By Malisa Garlieb

Malisa Garlieb is poetry editor of Mud Season Review. Often employing myth, art, and nature, she writes personal histories while simultaneously unfolding archetypes. Her poems have appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Calyx, Tar River Poetry, RHINO Poetry, Rust + Moth, Blue Unicorn, Fourteen Hills, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. Handing Out Apples in Eden is her first poetry collection, and there’s a second manuscript in the works. She’s also a mother, energy healer, and artist. Find her at malisagarlieb.com.