This Is Not My Story by Yvonne Zipter

This Is Not My Story

I am weeping in the kitchen, cutting tomatoes for dinner.
My wife comes into the room and asks what’s made me cry.
They showed a boy, I sob, and then must stop because I am weeping
again. I am weeping for a boy on the news. He is ten and walking
along a caliche road. Alone. He is walking along a gravel road
in La Grulla, Texas, ten and walking in a desert, not another soul
in sight until a border patrol guard sees him. The boy is ten,
and though he wears a Batman t-shirt and hooded jacket
like any ordinary boy, he is not ordinary. Four hours alone
in the desert, a Nicaraguan boy abandoned in the night
by the migrants he was traveling with, and he is sobbing so hard,
his chest heaves beneath the face of a cartoon character. And I
am sobbing with him, crying because he is ten and alone,
and I know that fear, the fear of solitude, the fear of never
being found, though I was never abandoned, let alone in a desert.
And then the pain of knowing his fear asks all of my other pain
to join it, and I am crying for my dead mother, for my cancer,
for the way the world tries to divide me and the boy, me
and his parents in Nicaragua, because of the color of our skins.
But this is not my story. I am not lost. I am in my kitchen,
safe, with someone to hold me while I weep, someone
to kiss away my tears. This is a story of desperation,
of a boy, looking for safety and a kitchen full of light and food
and love, looking for someone to hold him while he weeps.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s conversational tone emphasizes the empathy of the speaker, bringing the trauma of understanding up from the darkness and into the light.

Sacred Space by Yvonne Zipter

Sacred Space

In the church I am making
of Creticos Cancer Center,
I am in my purple pew,
my face, as I recline
my solitary bench, lifting
toward heaven, wood-slatted
and perfectly pleasant,
my hands at my side, upturned
and open as eager collection baskets.

Like any late-night reveler compelled
to an early service, I may doze
now and again, though I haven’t
been a reveler now for nearly
the number of years as Christ
roamed our mortal marble.

Between unextraordinary slumbers,
I watch a man find salvation, on my small screen,
from a Zen octopus in a forest of quivering kelp.
The miracle of wonder has tentacles everywhere.

Embedded in my chest, a port—a portal,
smaller than a communion wafer—
accepts the sacrament of chemo
from the altar of science. Much as Jesus
was changed to a bit of brittle bread,
my own known body is transforming
into some kind of mystic other.

All around me, a choir of the faithful
confess their fears, their flaws, their habits
to their guardian nurses, those shepherds
of survival, and though each of us
are in our own boxes, the voices mingle,
and there’s a kind of congregation in that.

Despite the hovering specter of malady,
peace wafts over us like the tired smoke
from a swaying, sacred smudge pot.

Throughout the hours of my devotion
to this baptism by Paclitaxel, the nurses
flow, murmuring riverlike, from patient
to patient, task to task, flow sweet
and blessed as Holy Water.

by Yvonne Zipter

Twitter: @YvonneZipter
Instagram: YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the most unexpected places can become sacred, as this poem demonstrates. The different sections allow for easy reading, mirroring formal prayer with images and thoughtful reflection.

Salt by Yvonne Zipter


You’ve seen the pictures:
rows of beds or reclining chairs,
men and women covered in blankets,
some wearing hats, pillows like snow drifts
cushioning their heads, the fresh air
believed to cure lungs
squeezed by disease.

Lying at present in my own lounge chair
in my own yard, I feel a kinship with those invalids,
soaking in the mountain or desert or sea air,
a blanket wrapped around me, feet to chin.
It’s 79 degrees out, but I’m in the shade,
and there’s a breeze, and the incision
under the white pillow of gauze adrift
on my chest is aching, whatever quietive juice
they pumped into my arm floating away.

I have a port now, and imagine weary sailors,
too many days afloat on an ocean,
readying to dock at the jetty jutting
from my rib cage. I smile, warming
to the sense of welcoming I feel,
as if I am someone’s homecoming,
a safe harbor, a whiff of soil, pine,
and home cooking, a chance to wash away
the salt from so long at sea.

by Yvonne Zipter

Twitter: @YvonneZipter
Instagram: YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note: The repetition of images and words in this beautifully constructed poem creates a cohesive emotional landscape for the reader.