Reading Matters

Kim Blum-Hyclak’s debut collection of poems

Kim Blum-Hyclak’s debut collection of poems, “In the Garden of Life and Death” (Main Street Rag, $14 paper), will rip at your heart. The poems recount her daughter’s illness, inherited from the poet’s mother, but bypassing the poet herself. Former poet Joseph Bathanti has said these poems are “like nitro glycerin, compositions so volatile, balanced so precariously and expertly on the poet’s daring diction that they threaten at every turn, with every rut in the road, to explode and blow us all to Kingdom Come.”

IN THE GARDEN OF LIFE AND DEATH

My daughter brings my mother hats.

A hot-pink ball cap she’s decorated with paint

and colorful gems, and the white terry turban she wore.

My blood connects them, and me to the two of them

but I’m separated. My veins don’t know the burn of chemo.

Thoughts have not formed only to disappear as vapor.

I’ve never left a gathering because the aroma

of food and the scent of perfume made my stomach burn.

My loves share a secret language and knowledge

between their giggles as Mom tries on hats and preens.

She wraps a protective arm around her granddaughter.

Gabrielle curls, tucks and fits into the hollow

and curves of Mom’s side, the two of them like the bulbs

of my tulips and daffodils that form around each other

as they multiply and share their DNA. In summer

I’m to dig them up, reach down into cool earth, work roots

loose and separate them, feel for the diseased

or softened with age. But this year I’ll ignore

the leaves that turn to crepe, nature’s sign

of sleep, and hope the flowers will bloom again

one more year.

Kim Blum-Hyclak lives in Lancaster, S.C., where, if she’s not writing, she’s working in her garden.

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