Common Disaster No. 1



A few months before she died, my grandmother
whispered that she wouldn’t
leave him: her husband was doing his best.
No, she shook her head.


That was a week before my husband and I
found her half-dressed, when my step-
grandfather shrugged: Urine dries fast.
And I shouldn’t have been surprised
when he struck like a hammer
into gunpowder—Don’t you fucking
touch her! This isn’t your fucking house!
I remember the whites of my husband’s eyes
as he turned the wheelchair, as I tried to grab
still-full pill bottles and underpants—


We brought her home.
And she lived a little while.


Days are short. The mosquitoes are out,
hovering among the tulip trees. My husband
turns steaks over charcoal, and I tell him
about my last patient of the day: a hard-
living man who’d said, I’d rather die
than let you take my leg. My grandmother’s
mail still arrives: Enjoy the credit
you deserve! Buy two get one free!
My husband and I look at one another, not saying
what we think.

M. Cynthia Cheung is a physician whose writing can be found in The Baltimore Review, RHINO, Salamander, SWWIM, Tupelo Quarterly and others. Currently, she serves as a judge for Baylor College of Medicine’s annual Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards. Find out more at www.mcynthiacheung.com.