Robert Cooperman

Cat, Apple, Justice

At my annual physical, my doctor tells me
to commit the words “Cat,” “Apple,” and “Justice”
to memory, then leaves me in his examining room
to put on a humiliating backless gown.
While I wait, I mutter, “Cat,” “Apple,” “Justice,”
to glue them into my head, then repeat them silently
while I sit on the examining table and follow
his finger with my eyes, let him feel for thyroid
nodules, listen to my heart, hammer my knees.
Then he asks casual as a prosecuting attorney
slipping in the fatal, incriminating question:
“What were those words again?”
“Cat,” “Apple,” “Justice.”
“Very good,” he smiles, as if I’m now in Mensa,
when it was just to see if my memory
hadn’t fled, as it did my poor mother,
who couldn’t, by the end, recall my Beth’s name,
only mine, my brother’s and our aunt’s.
“Very good,” my young doctor repeats,
then continues his examination, as if a doctor,
someday, won’t ever ask him a similar memory
question, while “Cat,” “Apple,” and “Justice”
rattle in my head: to make me think
I once lived with a spitting devil-spawn-cat,
I’d love apples even if they weren’t healthy,
and there’s no justice, if a woman lovely
as my mother could have her grip on this life
pried loose before she was ready to let it go.

© Robert Cooperman

Robert Cooperman has had 18 poetry collections published, most recently Their Wars; Saved by the Dead; Draft Board Blues, which was named one of Ten Great Reads by Colorado authors of 2017 by West Word Magazine. He lives in Denver with his wife Beth.

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