Sunday, August 28, 2011

August Challenge Winner

The winning poem for August is by Caroline Johnson, who says her hero is her sister Debbie, who died of osteogenic sarcoma. After her poem was selected, I asked her to explain in more detail why she considered her sister her hero. Here is what she wrote:

I admired my sister Debbie for many reasons. She had a talent of playing the piano, she was the first in the family to have a boyfriend, and she even smoked out on our front porch once with her friends--with my parents watching! However, the biggest reason I admired her was for her fortitude and strength when facing her illness, osteogenic sarcoma, or bone cancer. This cancer caused her to have her leg amputated, and later on, it metastasized to her lungs. It was the same kind of cancer that Ted Kennedy's son had. She even wrote a letter to him, and he replied, telling her to "never give up." He would survive the tragedy, while she didn't

She would tell my mom not to worry about what kind of casket to choose, while my mom couldn't hold back the tears. Debbie accepted her death in the same way she accepted her life; she reacted calmly with the cards that were dealt to her. Though her death at 15 affected us all greatly, it was really the memory of her life--the way she lived her life--that would chase us for years afterwards, like a ghost.

Her is Caroline’s tribute to her sister:

Poem about Hair

I remember when she lost it.
The memory is almost as vivid
as when she played with Barbie,
holding it with both hands,
moving it here and there
admiring the doll’s long hair.

All those months of chemotherapy,
the nausea, and then, suddenly,
she had beautiful, silky locks.
It was a dark wig, of course,
that I saw my 14-year-old sister comb.
At night it would sit on a Styrofoam head, propped.

She wore the wig and her prosthesis
every school day while climbing the steps
of a crowded yellow bus,
using crutches or sometimes
a cane.

The last time I saw her
we each put a single red rose
on her casket.
Father said he hoped he’d see her again.

Mother, like me, said nothing,
her dyed blonde hair
whipping in the wind.

Caroline Johnson Caroline Johnson

Copyright to this poem belongs to the author.

Watch for the September Poetry Challenge coming soon.

© Wilda Morris