Poetry by H. Lyke

Heather M. F. Lyke is a writer living in southern Minnesota. By day, she teaches students Creative Writing and American Literature. On evenings and weekends, she creates. She builds things out of nothing: sometimes with paint, occasionally with fabric, but most often with words. Lyke’s published nonfiction works all focus on education. Most of her work, however, is poetry; which, until recently, has remained quietly in her journals. https://heatherlyke.weebly.com


Breaking free from the city
I found myself curving with the
bend of the country road
where you once pulled over,
parked your truck, and sighed.

Here, let me show you.
you said, getting out.
Aglow in the headlights
you cocked your head—
raised an eyebrow.

By the time my feet hit
the dust of the shoulder,
you were already in the bed
of the truck, hand extended:
a beacon I was to follow.

With our backs against the cab,
you pointed just a little to the left:
having finished your freshman
astrology class, you confidently
introduced me to the bright Cassiopeia.

In the shadow of your sureness,
I claimed to see what you saw,
leaned back into your chest
and stared up into darkness.
but I saw no beautiful wife and mother.

Instead, the soft shimmer of Milky Way
pulled my eyes toward Cygnus,
the swan, who welcomed me.
Whispered: Transform yourself.

Shivering, despite the hot and humid night,
I shifted. Take me home?

Tour Wizard

Between our sixth concert and our seventh—
sandwiched between the gilded north-side church
and a west-side city festival—our bus full of girls lands
in the weekend-full parking lot of a suburban mall.

Mid-century stoic brick—cast gold in midday sun—
to be our food court haven, retail oasis, and escape
from the monotony of singing the same set of songs on repeat.
You are assigned my shopping chaperone. My breath catching:

around me, it’s all jarring elbows and head-back giggles,
while the bus and I stop rolling. My parked skin prickles.
You, our director’s niece, on break from college—
sandwiched between youth and responsibility—

lean toward your eight charges. High-five each of us.
Neurons reengage. Arm raises. Your small, rough palm
confidently presses into mine: smacking my skin so brightly
that it tingles between my fingers and my thighs.

Although, I don’t yet understand why.

As we follow you toward the yellow brick—the others chanting
KayBee and Suncost, and Deb (oh, my!)—I’m spelled by the glistening
Emerald city of your right ear, the lioness swagger of your walk,
The ruby hue of your tight fade: all of you a cyclone

that swirls
my thoughts
Where they stay.

But twenty-one years from now, I’ll have finally
Collected enough courage to melt
The conservative ideals that have built me. I’ll see
That the bricks of my path were never straight.

Abnormal Pap

Diagnosis: precancerous HPV.
Accusation: promiscuity.

I’d been monogamous.
He claimed my partner must not be.

Don’t jump to conclusions.
Google that shit.

Read a medical journal—
or two or three or four—
A belief outdated:
leftover from 1942.
Research noting
not nuns—
more likely to have HPV.

it must be an STD.

My cancer diagnosis
a judgement
of my morality.

Sadly, many woman
tell lovers it’s HPV—
maybe cancer—
and are labeled a whore.
Wrapped up
in outdated accusations
rather than arms.

Love only in health:
no love in fucking sickness—
not when sickness
comes with stigma.

Stigma fueled by a stranger
who hides ignorance
beneath his starched, white coat.

I Told Him So

A white, male, geriatric doctor
told me I’d rather have kids
than be cancer-free.

He assured me, that at 34,
I would rather have a LEEP procedure
four times a year,
rather max out my insurance annually,
rather have anxiety attack
after anxiety attack
after anxiety attack
while worrying about cancer cells growing—
taking over every inch of my insides—
so that I could maybe,
if my husband wanted me to
have kids.
Have that peace of mind.

He assured me, that at 36,
I would prefer possibilities
over a clean bill of health,
over sleep-filled nights,
over financial security.

He assured me, that at 34,
I would certainly
want to have children one day,
or my husband would want to have children one day,
or my parents would want to have grandchildren one day.
He assured me, that at 34,
I was too young to make
such a decision about

my body.

Three months later—
another doctor later—
I had my future children taken from me
so the cancer would not overtake me.
The cancer could not overtake me.

And a week later,
when the nurse called,
to share that while the cancer had advanced,
I had been saved from chemo,
from trial drugs,
from bills I could not pay,
because I had decided to be proactive:
to take control of

my body.

In that moment,
I wanted nothing more than to return
to that white, male, geriatric doctor
who was sure I’d rather have children
than be cancer free.
I wanted to spread my legs for him:
show him my missing cervix,
my ovaries dangling sans fallopian tubes,
my vaginal walls scraped cancer clean.
Show him the vacant hole
where my uterus used to be—
where my unborn children could have been—
And leer at him above
my open knees.

From the Editor:

We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.

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In Parentheses Magazine (Volume 7, Issue 3) Winter 2022

By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7

32 pages, published 1/15/2022

The Winter 2022 issue of In Parentheses Literary Magazine. Published by In Parentheses (Volume 7, Issue32)

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