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Marjory Heath Wentworth





Read our interview with poet Marjory Heath Wentworth, enjoy her poetry here. Marjory provides introductions to each of her poems.


"Illuminata” was published in The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle (Press 53, 2010), and “Barrier Island” was published in Noticing Eden (Hub City Writers Project, 2003).

People with cancer are living in a different world than the rest of us. While we run through our hectic lives we rarely have time for reflection. In the parallel universe of the cancer patient, however, time has a different meaning. Their world is turned upside-down. Priorities shift and expectations change. Day-to-day life revolves around treatment schedules rather than work and school schedules. The biggest shift in their lives is an internal one, because people with cancer are facing their own mortality. They possess enormous amounts of wisdom about the big things – the things most of us don’t take time to think about. Painting, journaling and writing poems is a way for people to access these big things, and the results can be quite powerful and moving. The following poem is inspired by my students and the stories they have told me.                       




Day One

On the first day of chemo

unexplained gifts appear on the doormat –

lavender soap wrapped in tissue paper,

a thick bar of dark chocolate and a quartz

sparkled rock to keep you earthbound.


Day Two

Everyone must be busy today.

That’s okay. You watch patterns of sun-

light slide across your bedroom wall.

The dog sleeps on top of your bed

and watches you carefully.


Day Three

Dried leaves in a pile woven together

by spider webs on the brick steps

have no meaning.  But they hold

your attention for too long.   Sleep now,

and wait for something green to appear.


Day Four

Late last night, your sister phoned.

You don’t ask what took her so long,

because her voice is the one that answers

in dreams.  It is the flame

singing through the longest night.


Day Five

Sunflowers tied with yellow velvet ribbon

greet you when you open the front door.  

Peaches in a brown bag, a box of pastries

tied with a string, and bowl full of tomatoes.

The note is from a neighbor you hardly know.


Day Six

New copies of PEOPLE and VOGUE stacked

beneath a bottle of bright pink nail polish

the sticky note attached - “Something to do!”

“2 DVD’s that will make you LAUGH –

“Pink Panther” and “A Fish Called Wanda.”


Day Seven

After smoking the joint that was hidden

in an envelope labeled JUST IN CASE,

you look up the word grace in the dictionary.

“Thank you for the gifts,” you write,

“I feel like a Saint has visited my doorstep.”   




In 2001,  my poems were featured in a collaborative exhibit at the National Science Foundation and Duke University Museum of Art called A Celebration of Barrier Islands: Restless Ribbons of Sand featuring 17 batiks on silk and 7 monotypes on paper created by Mary Edna Fraser, text by Orrin Pilkey and my poems.  “Barrier Island” is the poem that was used on the invitation.



Barrier Island


Where nothing is certain, we awaken

to another night of delicate rain

falling as if it didn’t want to

disturb anyone.  On and off

foghorns groan.  The lighthouse beacon

circles the island.  For hours, melancholy

waves tear whatever land we’re standing on.

Listen to the sea - rain dripping

through fog, suspended at the edge of earth

on a circle of sand where we are always

moving slowly toward land.


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