In the Waiting Room of the Dell Children’s Hospital CF Clinic
at Age 40

The Disney princess pictures and Finding Nemo posters
haphazardly                  tacked up
at registration cubicles     where
nurses     wearing cartoon scrubs
remind you          of the fact that
you are supposed to be dead by now.

Even your medicine           reeks of     childhood:

Asian hamsters.

Imagine.                   A tiny syringe                     extracting
secretions         from their genetically         engineered ovaries.

Remember that fragile hamster
you owned for three days?
It caught
cold and died.

So many dead hamsters.
Their tiny bodies
cooling off,
water removed
from flame.

But that one death?

You cried. More than
all the others.
Not because you
knew it best.

You loved it best
it was the most

Is there some kind of strange beauty       in slowly      dying     of a child’s disease
but not knowing until decades later?

You never got out
of gym class or Made-A-Wish
or topped the other girls’
sob stories at Annie Katz’s
sleepover when they kept playing
Richard Marx’s Hold on to the Nights and crying.

How do we explain something that took us by surprise?

Now you can’t remember if you had nothing
to share     because
you’re not         really
a joiner    or because you walked in
late          and they were already

A Few Seconds to Answer

The sun came up with no conclusions—
spattering emptiness across our faces. I
gave up in the driving sand.

And what we felt was regret.

If we were lions, there would be
rules— postures we could mime.

We would play the game
and feel powerful. But in-between,
everything feels like Jeopardy, where
there is an impossible question and
only a few
seconds to answer it correctly.

We are useless, like cat massage,
living in the house where you grew up,
clinging to common calculations,
drowning in wall to wall what ifs.

But the day we climbed, like baby
birds, out of the sunroof
of my Toyota Corolla, listening
to Mazzy Star on repeat,
that day was something else.


Bree A. Rolfe holds an MFA from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College. Her work has appeared in Saul Williams’ poetry anthology Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, the Barefoot Muse Anthology Forgetting Home: Poems About Alzheimer’s, the Redpaint Hill Anthology Mother is a Verb, and 5AM Magazine. Originally from Boston, she now lives in Austin, TX where she writes poetry and teaches.