I am doing the post-holiday dishes at my mother’s.
Antique crystal, water tepid, not hot, Ivory soap, 
and even though the champagne glasses, alas,
were not based on Marie Antoinette’s bosom (I’d liked 

that story, and she did commission milk cups inspired by 
her left) they are breasts in my hands today, the day you
meet the oncologist. They are warm, soapy, valued, fragile.
My clumsy hand flexing inside the bowl could shatter them. 

Christmas Eve, when I heard it had spread from your gone
breast to the other, lymph, and liver, the choir’s glad tidings 
of great joy, pine scent, broke my brain. Pure beauty starved 
me, making me crave more descants, imagining your kind heart

despairing at the prospect of darkness and silence, missing 
midnight masses. Later, I hear that your son wonders 
why the Chemo Princess gets all the attention. Teenagers 
can be as toxic as any drug dripping through a port-a-cath. 

I help with the research from three time zones away, learn
magic words, pertuzumab, trastuzumab. Pray. If I daydream, 
will I miss a fact that could help prolong a life? Can words,
can the word, work? As I close the file I’ve named for you, 

the computer tells me “Word is saving Anna.” 

Tina Kelley’s Rise Wildly appeared in 2020 from CavanKerry Press, joining Abloom & Awry, Precise, and The Gospel of Galore, a Washington State Book Award winner. She co-authored Breaking Barriers: How P-TECH Schools Create a Pathway from High School to College to Career and Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope and reported for a decade for The New York Times. She and her husband have two children and live in Maplewood, NJ.