Carol Dorf


The prose poem is the voice in my head which refuses to stay on track. The prose poem is the philosopher, in her conference suit, offering me a seat, but each chair is full of papers, and I stand puzzled before such incomplete choices. Mostly the prose poem is the story I tell myself to make sense of the fragments of images that crash together in my dreams.




In the recovery room I watch my level on the monitor, breathing deep to keep it up: ninety, ninety-three, ninety-six. "Sleep, do you want something?" the nurse asks, but I want to watch my oxygen, wake back into my life.

The first time, after the main surgery, I waited in a little, curtained cubical of the surgical prep room, where each time they moved a bed through it would bump into my curtain and I worried that they would crash a bed into me and once it did happen. I kept thinking that maybe all those other people needed surgery, but a mistake had been made in my case. I should have been one of the social workers, or maybe a volunteer. The room was cold, and we talked to distract ourselves.

The anesthesiologist, pushed aside the curtain, explained about the oxygen I'd be breathing during surgery, and shot something into the IV so I could "relax" and that's the last word I remember before waking , nurse explaining the self-administered morphine drip, offering hits of pure oxygen.




(for FP, and EPL)


The electrical currents that move through our brains in waves. Splashing images against each other in that liminal stage between sleep and waking. Disordered and there's epilepsy. Excessive order and the child freezes, unable to decide between the blue shirt and the green one.

Radio waves, microwaves, sine waves, waves of desert heat, waves of nausea in the first trimester, waves of post-surgical pain, ocean waves, at the beach perched on a cliff where waves smash rock, cast off small spheres of light, and it's about alternating sound, sound waves, waves of grief, the way I felt I'd lost my sense of order after Frank died. The waves we watched as we walked the Boardwalk, slowly, with Esther, and now she's gone, too.

The waves of generations, and I seem to be reaching the old one, but my mother's still alive, still going to meetings; so this is an example of a disordered wave; Frank's death within a year of his retirement, before he'd even finished rebuilding the shore house. My cancer should have waited 20 or 30 years; that would keep the orderly wave of health, illness, generations, intact.

At the shore, I never wave to the boats on the horizon. I can't imagine the sailors, or maybe I can; Sperry shoes and white sweaters; but they aren't the people I want to wave to; I could wave to Frank & Esther & Octavia & Shalva at the far end of the boardwalk, or take a scarf and trail it in the suds at the sand's edge.


Carol Dorf's poems have appeared in Fringe, The Midway, New Verse News, Edgz, Runes, Feminist Studies, Heresies, Coracle, Poetica, Responsa, The NeoVictorian, Caprice and elsewhere. She is a former editor of Five Fingers Review, and the Barnard Literary Magazine. She's taught in a variety of venues including a science museum, and as a California Poet in the Schools. She now teaches in a large, urban high school.