Illustration by Anne Le Guern


after Joan Didion

To wait for something to open, that’s optimism.
In my private medical-free meadow

mystery seedlings emerge in clumps.
I’m the doctor, experimenting with living things.

I shouldn’t smoke, but I do as I till around
the lime tree, wave hello to the neighbors.

Don’t they know this is what grief looks like.
Some tip their hats or smile.

Sorry to smoke around your children, ma’am,
but you wandered into my garden. Dead

-heading the rose — I cut.
I cut by mistake; I say “sorry babe.”

Sorry babe, didn’t mean to cut you.
How does one cut into a person?

Put them to sleep and slice them open.
We trust in medicine, the mechanics of humans

may even be sociopathic. They look things up
in a medical dictionary before they take my call.

“There is nothing the matter with you,” they lie, or
“You need a new liver, we can’t say when.”

I know a doctor who lives on my street.
One sign in front of his house says “a hero lives here.”

The other: “under camera surveillance at all times.”
I look directly into the doctor’s camera

when I steal Greenovia clippings.
A jogging housewife disapproves

but it does the plant good.
Don’t think, just cut.

The doctor and the director want to earn a living.
I want to be perfect in my aloneness

waiting for answers in a thicket of weeds.
I mistook solitude for punishment.

It was purgatory.
So, wheel me into the surgical theater.

Let the fun begin.

Jessica Abughattas

Jessica Abughattas is the author of Strip, winner of the 2020 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, selected by Fady Joudah and Hayan Charara. Her poems have been published in The Rumpus, The Adroit Journal, Lit Hub, and other places. A Kundiman Fellow, she received her MFA in poetry from Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her poetic short film “Dinner Party” premiered at Mizna’s Twin Cities Arab Film Festival in 2021, was a finalist for Palette Poetry’s Brush and Lyre Prize, and appeared at RAWIFest. She lives in Los Angeles.