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The Threshold

By Lisa Bristow

He is earlier than expected. 

I’d hoped this reckoning would be

decades away; time enough left

to unwrap the hidden things,

to finally make them right.


Yet here he is, this March morning

blurry with grey, doctors pressing

through him in their hurry.

He starts gently, easing the sheet

from its pristine hospital corners

to examine my feet. Embarrassed,

I try to draw them away,

tuck them back under the covers.

He’s too quick; he catches them,

views with tenderness the callouses,

the chipped blue polish

there was no time to remove,

Nana Havercroft's bunions.

“Perfect,” he says.


His gaze moves up to my belly,

sighing at the ridge of staples

winding from pubis to sternum—

two tectonic plates sliced apart

then smashed together.

Hidden beneath the rust of iodine

and blood, the attempts to save

my ovaries, my bowel, my life.

His face drops.

“I'm so sorry,” he says.


Foggy with anaesthetic, I reach

into my chest, past the electrodes

telling the screaming monitors

I’m standing on the threshold.

I take out a well-worn bundle

of words I wish I could take back,

of hate that my tongue let loose,

of acts I would undo if I could.

The string is frayed,

the tissue paper fragile with

frequent unwrapping.


He takes it from me,

examines the contents briefly,

then tosses them without concern

into the blood-red plastic bag

to join my cankered ovaries,

a foot-length of bowel,

and other waste fit only to be burned.

He extends a hand towards me.

“Forgiven,” he says.


Lisa Bristow’s poetry has been published in the Thomas Merton Journal, We are Not Shadows by Folkways Press, What the Eye Sees by Arachne Press, Kosmeo Mag and Faith, Hope and Fiction. It is forthcoming in the Amethyst Review. She lives on the edge of the Peak District in England with her husband and rescue dog.


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