Rodent Ulcer

by Jude Goodwin
The Waters
First Place, September 2017
Judged by Tim Mayo


The heavy headed sunflower
is turned away,
more interesting things to watch on the roadway
than in our little yard
where two dogs press their noses
through a gate
hoping to bark
i make warning sounds in my throat
they look back at me
as one, then turn again
their fur dusted with late summer marigold.
It’s been five days since I sat with my doctor

and let him put his hands
on my face, his knife.
On one of those days the sun
cast crescent shadows for two minutes
even on our arms and cheeks
A rodent moon
had gnawed its way
into the light
no one expected to be frightened
but when the day went dark
and the birds stopped singing
we turned away, our heads down
truth, like death,
needs goggles,
or cereal boxes with pinholes
Someone offered me a piece of obsidian.
The sunflower does not actually follow the sun

turning its flat face to track the day
and I don’t anymore, either.
My heliotropic days are over.


I love that the poet never mentions the word “eclipse” in this poem, and it is that image which governs the speaker’s careful ironic visual unfolding of how his/her cancer has affected them, and how the eclipse has not frightened the people she/he is with. The intertwining development of eclipse image to both show how it affects the inner life of the speaker in relation to the disease and how it does not frighten the people around him/her who perhaps do not know of the cancer that the speaker has. Although, it is never mentioned I read into the poem that the speaker had melanoma which would heighten the sun image even more. A beautifully developed conceit. --Tim Mayo

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