Back to Issue Thirty-Four

Precarious Weather


Finalist for the 2020 Adroit Prize for Poetry

The day I call the day my hair fell out, no hair
actually fell out. Several bouquets simply gave

with a small tug, and slipped my mind
like thoughts. This wasn’t picking – the mud

let go the roots, and every hair coming out said “oh,
yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for!”

It left me like a map: desert states and green.
My cancer: America mowing the front yard,

and then sucking it dry till it’s hard,
and there is nothing there but rock,

and nothing like the sea, except maybe
my eyes that one time you described them,

sat by the river, yawning on the yellow lawn
which clung to your ankles harder than I did

to your neck that night to pull you down,
my hair in your mouth like hay, and tangled

in tears not letting go. But you left and leave,
constantly in my mind as I navigate this map

of dying. And if I didn’t let you go in the grass,
I sure as hell won’t let you go in this desert,

where I can’t even drink the water in my eyes
because the salt will drive me mad.

I am a map differently than a man is an island, and
I will torture myself with this precarious weather,

until this cancer’s gone as definitely
as you decided to leave.


Madeleine Pulman-Jones is a poet, writer, and translator. She currently studies Russian and Spanish at the University of Cambridge, where she was president of the Poetry and Prose Society. Her work has been featured in The Mays Anthology of New Oxford and Cambridge Writing and The Guardian, among other publications.

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