“Gilding the Lily”
To keep anxiety at bay, my friend called chemo dragonfly love. Those insects—christened, in places, the devil’s darning needles—hover as they contort their joined bodies into a heart, the male with pincers. Finger cutter, horse killer, ear stick, eye pisser. Look closely at the eyes of a female darner and you may well see dark puncture marks. As a slow drip through an IV. As a pill. Through a port into a vein. She called nausea erotica. Just the same, we name our storms to lessen them—not a tropical cyclone, but Arabella, with ballet shoes and bun. Tumors, too, were friends, waiting at the bus stop with backpacks in the morning. Cindy French braids Carrie’s hair, yanking at the scalp to form the tight crisscross. Not hair loss, but deep conditioning. She gave us the new lexicon on stationery embossed with a red rose speckled by raindrops. The stem still had its thorns. Ring-around-the-rosy, red rover, red rover, send her right over. She called death the world of 10,000 things: the dragon courting its damsel, catheter tubing in the wastebin, video of a toddler biting his brother, pas de deux, full-sugar ice cream, Crimson Queen, Trumpeter, Red Knockout, Tuscany Superb…I knew her as Rose Shapiro. At the funeral I learned she was born Passalacqua: to cross the river, to pass a glass of water.